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Full text of "My Connaught cousins : in three volumes"



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2009 with funding from 

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 



http://www.archive.org/details/myconnaughtcousi01jayh 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR, 
Uniform with " The Queen of Connaught,'' 

THE DARK COLLEEN. 



SOME OPINIONS OF THE PRESS. 

'The author of "The Queen of Connaught " has again given to the world 
an interesting and romantic tale. . . . Very original is the charm of the 
early days of poor Morna's romance, the rugged grandeur of her home, the 
picturesque habits and primitive ceremonies, the tenderness and ferocity of 
her melancholy Celtic kindred.' — Athemeiim. 
_ ' Lively and spirited, abounding with fresh conceptions and picturesque 
situations. No more striking locale could have been chosen than Eagle 
Island — a semi-savage islet on the west coast of Ireland, with its primitive 
manners and customs, and its strange race of half-Celtic, half-Spanish \x\.- 
habitants.'— G/ciJ^. 

' The originality of the story is complete. Its charm lies in the picture of 
a free and unfamiliar life. . . . Poor Morna's return to Eagle Island, 
tired, forsaken, and heartily sick of the unknown world that had seemed so 
charming, makes a touching scene. . . . Certain states of emotion — as, 
for example, the sorrow of Morna, and her bewilderment when she finds 
that Bisson has ceased to love her ; certain aspects of nature in seas and 
mountains — are very delicately and carefully rendered. The mixed char- 
acter of Louander, the mate, with his love, which would fain be honourable, 
awakening a certain gentleness in a hardened disposition, is also a clever 
study.'— /'a// iMall Gazette. 

*_' Unquestionably a book of mark. . . . In her word pictures and still- 
life scenes the author is all that could be desired. . . . Morna is a very 
fascinating conception, and drawn with great truth and tenderness of 
feeling.' — Graphic. 

' We have scarcely a fault to find. ... It may and should be read. 
. . . Morna's savage puritj-, and at the same time her depths of passion, 
are most admirably drawn. The book is an excellent piece of work. — 
Acadetny. 

'This fresh and unconventional romance, whose charm is in its vivid 
delineations of the weird inhabitants of Eagle Island, and of the varying 
aspects of this lone spot in the ocean, according to whether the Atlantic 
peacefully laps its shores or dashes with the fury of the tempest on its 
rocks.' — Illustrated London News. 

' Wc may possibly find in its author a worthy successor, though in a some- 
what different line, to those great bygone delineators of Irish life and 
character whose names have become household words. . . . Considered 
merely as a telling story, " The Dark Colleen " is admirable. The pictures 
of the simple peasant life upon Eagle Island, with its alternate toil and 
merry-making, its dangers and its pleasures, give a delightful impression of 
the inhabitants of the solitary spot. . . . These the author has por- 
trayed in a manner which is obviously the result of knowledge and actual 
observation, and is worthy of all praise.' — Morning Post. 

'A novel which possesses the rare and valuable quality of novelty . . . 
the scenery will be strange to most readers, and in many passages the aspects 
of Nature are very cleverly described. Moreover, the book is a study of 
a very curious and interesting state of society. . . . The life is that of 
people as unsophisticated and as much their own rulers as the dwellers in 
the woodland villages in George Sand's " Maitres Sonneurs." ... A 
novel which no novel reader should miss, and which people who generally 
shun novels may go out of their way to enjoy.' — Saturday Revieiv. 



VOL. I. 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR, 

In I Vol., Price 23-., 

AT ALL BOOKSELLERS, 

THE QUEEN OF CONNAUGHT. 



SOME OPINIONS OF THE PRESS. 

' Since Lever and Carleton passed away, we have had little of Irish life in 
fiction, and that little has lacked character and power. This new writer 
gives promise of filling the vacant place. . . . This novel contains an 
unusual mixture of plot and sensation, faithful character, study, and powerful 
description. A book to be welcomed and read with delight in these times 
for its freshness of conception, its racy, rattling humour, and its ridiculous- 
ness — sometimes so oddly dashed with deep thought— all of which combine 
to attest an exceptional power on the part of the author.' — British Quarterly 
Review. 

' Extremely singular, and quite unlike any other tale that has ever ap- 
peared ; and it has about it a strange fascination. In reading it, one seems 
to be transported into some strange land of poetr^-^ and romance. . . . 
Indeed, "The Queen of Connaught " is a series of very skilfully executed 
pictures, which present a wonderful appearance of reality. Poor Kathleen 
finds out when dying how mistaken her Hie has been, and she does not desire 
to begin it again. She dies in the arms of the faithful husband whom till 
lately she had never understood, and whose goodness she has never doubted, 
but whose love has followed her to the end, and will long survive her. A 
most touching story indeed, full of pathos and full of humour, is this " Queen 
ol(Zovix\ZM^\.." '—Mar7ii7tg Post. 

' A story that combines considerable inventiveness, and plot power with 
racy study of character and fresh picturesque description. . ._ . Our 
readers will not fail to be struck by the intimate knowledge of Irish ways 
and customs, the subtle instinct for the finer distinguishing traits in Irish 
character ; and they will no doubt appreciate also the sense at once of 
the humour of Irish life, and of the delicacy, the sentiment, and the rough 
defiance and dare-devilry that are so oddly intermingled in it. . . . 
Dramatic force is noticeable throughout, no less than true descriptive knack. 
. . . Alike to those who seek striking incident and picture, and those 
who seek more solid teaching, "The Queen of Connaught " may be very 
safely recommended.' — Nonconfortnisf. 

' A very new subject is treated in this story with great freshness and 
vivacity. The tale may be said to be a study of the Irish character and 
temperament ; impartial and thoughtful in its intention, and cleverly executed, 
though the author's contempt for the class of characters chiefly described is 
visible enough. . . . Nothing can be happier or more graphic than the 
author's description of the kind of society which frequents O'Mara Castle as 
soon as Kathleen restores the glories of its ancient hospitality- The humours 
of the society that flock there, from Timothy Linney, the stately old man 
who displaces the master of his house from his own chair because he has 
taken a fancy to it, to Biddy Cranby, the poor crazy woman who starves 
herself, in both senses of the word, to feed and clothe her children, are 
painted with a picturesque breadth and liveliness that add sensibly _ to 
one's knowledge of human nature itself. . . . It is a most charming 
study of a subject full of colour, light and shadow, and one that rises 
steadily in interest up to the close. The third volume is decidedly the best 
of the three, and the scene which comes most nearly up to the ideal point in 
power, is the critical scene of the book, where Kathleen, drenched by the 
storm, and alone, faces the conspirators against her husband's life, in the 
dreary solitude of their mountain hiding-place. ... Situations of less 
intensity are often painted with consummate skill. ... All are etched 
with a most faithful and skilful hand. . . . This tale is full of life, skill, 
and insight.' — Spectator. 



MY CONNAUGHT COUSINS. 



BY 



H A E E I E T T J A Y, 

lUTHOR of "the QCEEX of CONNArCHT," "TWO MEN AND 
A MAIi:)," ETC., E.G. 



IN THREE VOL UMES. 



VOL. I. 



LONDON; F. V. WHITE & CO., 
31 SOUTHAMPTON STREET, STEAND, W.C. 



1 8 8 3. 



{AU Ri'jhts reserved.' 



p. V. WHITE & CO.'S 
SELECT NOVELS. 

Crown Zvo, cloth, y. 6d. each. 



The following Volumes of the Series are now ready:— 
MY SISTER THE ACTRESS. By Florence Marryat. 

' " My Sister the Actress " is the best novel we have had the pleasure of 
reading from the pen of Miss Marryat.' — yo/in Bull. 

THE DEAN'S WIFE. By Mrs Eiloart. 

' Any reader who wants a good story thoroughly well told cannot do better 
than read " The Dean's Wife." ' — yohn Bull. 

A BROKEN BLOSSOM. By Florence Marryat. 

' A really charming story, full of delicate pathos and quiet humour ; 
pleasant to read and pleasant to remember.' — JoJui Bull. 

TWO MEN AND A MAID. By Harriett Jay. 

' Compared with the former works of the authoress of " The Queen of 
Connaught," this novel must be pronounced second to none.' — Graphic. 

SWEETHEART AND WIFE. By Lady Constance 
Howard. 

'The story from first to last is attractive, and cannot fail to command 
wide favour.' — Whitehall Review. 

PHYLLIDA. By Florence Marryat. 

' " Phyllida " is a novel of which the author may be justly proud.' — 
Morning Post. 

BARBARA'S WARNING. By the Author of ' Recom- 
mended to Mercy.' 



COLSTON AND SON, PKINTERS, EJ)INBUK(iH. 



<^ oi ^ 



V- 




^ 



PREFATORY NOTE. 




HE Authoress of Mij Connaught 
Cousins, smarting under a cer- 
tain misconception, but tliink- 
.; ing that polemics of any kind ill befit 
i a lady's pen, has asked me to write a 
few prefatory words explaining how this 
; book and its predecessors came to be 
^;^^written, and how unjust is the charge, 
made in one influential quarter, that 
^ she is an enemy to Irish nationality. 
The task is a difficult one, especially as I 



C 
^S^ 



iv Preface. 

sympathise more strongly than she does 
with the present 'political movement, and 
am, indeed, much more of an advanced 
Liberal ; but we are entirely at one in 
our sympathy with the social life and 
aims of the Irish people, and in our love 
for what is best and noblest in the Irish 
nature. In these days of haste and folly, 
anything really original in literature is 
certain to be misunderstood. When the 
Queen of Connaitght appeared, its great 
and instantaneous success was unconnected 
with its most sterling characteristic — that 
of an entirely new (but I believe the only 
true) reading of the national character and 
temperament. Subsequent events have jus- 
tified that reading in an extraordinary 
manner ; and it is clearly understood now 
that the familiar Irishman of literature and 



Preface, v 

the stage, the meny, goocl-humourecl "Pat" 
of a thousand novels and melodramas, was 
more or less a jDroduct of the inner con- 
sciousness. In a subsequent but far less 
successful work, unpopular from its rigid 
and terrible truth of delineation, the Au- 
thoress put her finger on the canker which 
now, as heretofore, poisons the wholesome 
life of Ireland ; but the Priest's Blessing, 
though neglected now, will live as perhaps 
the most powerful social study that ever 
came from the mind of a young girl. No 
unprejudiced person who reads that work, 
and takes it in connection with other works 
from the same pen, will doubt its deep in- 
sight — I should say, its unparalleled insight 
— into the nature of the Irish peasant. 

The Authoress of these works went to 
Ireland when very young, lived for years 



vi Preface. 

in the wildest and loneliest part of the 
wild and lonely West, and was first in- 
spired to literary effort by what she saw 
and hiew. Her pictures were drawn from 
the very life, of which she was all that 
time a portion. She had no prejudices 
and no predispositions, and her sympathy, 
above all, was for the suffering people ; 
and if in her portrayal she often had to 
describe moral darkness, she did so with 
a full sense of what was brightest and 
best on the other side of the picture. 
Behind the wretchedness and the squalor, 
the ignorance and the prejudice, beginning 
in misconception and culminating in crime, 
she showed the deep tenderness, the de- 
voted patience, the sweetness and the 
purity, of the Celtic temperament. The 
characters of Dunbeg in the Queen of Con- 



Preface, vii 

naught, of Patrick O'Connor in the Priest's 
Blessing, of James Merton in the present 
work, are, as living types, unique in liter- 
ature ; and the infinite pity of literary 
sympathy was never better exemplified 
than in the life story of " Madge Dun- 
raven " and " Morna Dunroon," or than in 
the tender idyll of " How Andy Beg 
became a Fairy." 

Among the first to recognise the unique 
power of these stories, their fidelity to 
human nature, and their predominant dra- 
matic power, was one of the foremost 
moral teachers of this or any time, — Mr 
Eeade. Had they been unveracious, had 
they been in any sense productions of the 
inner consciousness, they would never have 
attracted that most keen-sighted of social 
observers ; had they lacked sympathy for 



vili Preface. 

their subject, had they been opposed to 
what was best in Irish life and character 
they would never have won his approval. 
But their veracity is vital and will prevail. 
Meantime, the reader is to be warned that 
they contain many things, present many 
pictures, which the false friends and sum- 
mer lovers of Ireland must naturally re- 
gard with suspicion and dislike. The true 
friends of Ireland, and all those who 
honestly sympathise with the national as- 
pirations, will find in them that truth 
which genius only can reveal, and which, 
when once revealed, is fairer than any 
falsehood, however brightly drawn. 

ROBERT BUCHANAN. 



MY CONMUGHT COUSINS. 



CHAPTEK I. 




)T was midsummer. The hottest 
sun that had warmed our soil 
for years shone its brightest 
upon city and suburb. All my friends 
were in the country, yet I remained 
shut up in my chambers, with nothing 
fairer, to gaze upon than the withered 
grass and drooping trees of a smutty, 
smoke-begrimed London square. Heigho ! 
It was weary work staying in London 
when all the world was wandering away 

VOL. I. A 



2 My Connaught Cousins. 

by wood and stream ! When I walked 
out the heat of the pavement scorched 
the leather of my shoes ! The West End 
streets which I traversed were all deserted 
save for a few Indian ayahs and dyspeptic- 
looking gentlemen of the Baystock breed, 
who evidently existed on curry and red 
pepper, and felt no sort of discomfort 
when the thermometer reofistered one hun- 
dred in the shade. It was actually my 
first experience of summer in town ! — 
that lucky spoon which had been in my 
possession ever since I was born with it 
in my mouth, having managed like an 
enchanter's wand to deposit me every for- 
mer summer uj)on the bank of a salmon 
river or the knolls of a grouse moor. 
For once, however, my luck had failed me, 
since, despite their winter's hard work, 
my hands lay passively in almost empty 
pockets, and my eyes rested gloomily 
upon the scorched and grimy streets of 
Babylon. Babylon without the " waters," 



My Connatight Cousins. 3 

or anything suggestive of coolness and 
pastoral rest. 

As I mused and sulked, my meditations 
were disturbed by a step proceeding slowly 
round the square, and thrusting my head 
out of the window I beheld the postman. 
Even his habitually brisk tread had changed 
that day into a lagging desultory kind of 
stroll. He came wearily on ; he paused 
before my door. 

" Could the letter be for me ? " I won- 
dered, having nothing more important to 
occupy my brain, — for the postman had 
slipped a missive into the letter-box, given 
his feeble rat-tat, and strolled vacuously 
away. I was so much occupied with 
watching the man's retreating figure, that 
I was hardly conscious of a step on the 
stair, a tap at the door, and not until I 
heard the words, — ''A letter, sir, if you 
please," did I turn my head. 

Then it was for me ! — a white square 
envelope, addressed to " John Stedman, 



4 My Co7inatight Cotcsins. 

Esq." in a hand which seemed, yet was not 
altogether, familiar. After scanning the 
writing I turned to the seal, and then I 
beheld, printed in small capitals, the word 
Ballyshanrany, and about it was entwined 
the triple-leaved shamrock. Having gazed 
for a few minutes at the mystical emblem, 
and still more mystical word, I tore open 
the envelope, and proceeded to acquaint 
myself with the contents. There were 
two letters, the first of which ran as 
follows : — 

" Ballyshanrany, 
Storport, 

County Mayo, 
Ireland. 

"My dear Nephew, — The girls, ever 
impatient to make your acquaintance, have 
for the last ten days been worrying my 
life out to invite you here. In vain have 
I protested ; in vain have I told them that 
a young London barrister must have more 
engagements than he knows what to do 



Afy Comiattght Cousins. 5 

with ; although I have asked you three 
times already, they declare that the third 
time is lucky, and that if I send this letter 
you'll come. So I send it. If you are not 
already disposed of for the season, I cer- 
tainly believe you might do worse than 
spend a few weeks down here. We are 
homely, but comfortable ; I can manage 
to put you in the way of a little sport ; — 
Kate, who is a capital housekeeper, will 
see that you are properly fed, and the 
rest have promised to do what they can 
to amuse you. There's half-a-dozen of 
them, remember, but they are not bad 
colleens as colleens go, and if you come,; 
sure they'll give you a hearty welcome I 
Think it over, and let us hear from you. 
Your affectionate uncle, A. Kenmaee." 

I read the letter twice ; then throwing 
it on the table, I sat down lazily, cigar 
in mouth, to take my uncle's parting word 
f)i advice. I thought over his proj^osition, 



6 My Connatigkt Cousins. 

and the more I thought of it, the more I 
seemed to like it. I felt irresistibly im- 
pelled to accept it, at the same time I 
could not help regretting that I did not 
know a little more of the relations under 
whose roof I was invited to reside. 

My uncle was an Irishman to the back- 
bone, and, as far as I could gather, as warm- 
hearted an old fellow as ever trod the soil. 
Most of his early days had been spent in 
India, and it was not till rather late in life 
that he returned, married my mothers 
youngest sister, and settled down upon hi& 
native soil. As far as any family communi- 
cation was concerned, they might have 
settled in Kamskatka, for after the marriage 
they seemed to be exiled entirely from their 
friends ; but we heard from time to time 
that they were happy, and that strange 
little faces were appearing upon their 
hearth. At length one morning — about 
six years before the day on which my 
uncle's third invitation fell into my hands — 



My Connaught Cousins, 7 

there came to our house a piece of news 
which almost broke my mother's heart, 
for she heard that her favourite sister, 
after having presented her husband with 
half-a-dozen daughters, had died, while the 
sixth little stranger was still a baby at her 
breast. 

After this, the connection of the Ken- 
mares with our branch of the family 
seemed to cease. We heard little or 
nothing of them, and I, busily engaged in 
working my way in the world, almost 
forgot that such close kin existed at all. 
I vaguely remembered, now that the cir- 
cumstance was recalled to my mind, having 
received two letters of invitation from the 
old gentleman ; but the invitations, coming 
doubtless at busy times, had never hitherto 
been tempting enough to draw me to Ire- 
land. I had, consequently, written a polite 
refusal and dismissed the whole family from 
my mind. 

Now, however, the case was different. 



8 Afy Connaught Cousins. 

I had nothing to do ; I had nowhere to 
go ; I was stifling in the smoky air of 
London, and longing for a breeze from 
the sea. Yes, the invitation was certainly 
tempting ; it was one, moreover, which I 
should have accepted without a moment's 
hesitation, but for one appalling contin- 
gency — the half-dozen girls. 

To some young fellows this might have 
been an inducement ; to me it was the 
contrary. Nature never meant me for a 
lady's man, and the typical girl of modern 
life was certainly not to my taste. It was 
all very well to pass half-an-hour with 
persons of the other sex in a London 
drawing-room, but to have to spend one's 
entire vacation, surrounded by girls, was 
rather too much of a good thing. 

" During the vacation," I reflected, *^ one 
wants male society, fair sport, and good 
cigars. To visit Bally shanrany simply 
means that I am to be perpetually bored 
with half-a-dozen boisterous Irish hoydens. 



My Connaught Cousins, 9 

The invitation, though sorely tempting, 
won't do for a bashful man. I will write 
my refusal without a moment's delay." 

I rose to carry out my resolution, when 
my eye, wandering over the carpet, fell upon 
a folded sheet of paper which lay at my 
feet. Suddenly I remembered what, until 
then, I had entirely forgotten, — the second 
letter which the envelope contained, and 
which I had never taken the trouble to 
open at all. I lifted it, unfolded the sheet, 
and read as follows : — 

'' Dearest Cousin Jack, — Ever since we 
read your speech in the paper, we have 
been dying to see you, so we hope that 
when you answer papas letter this time, 
you will not have the heart to say * no.' 
We have not the least idea what you are 
like ; but we have conjured up all sorts 
of visions which are, no doubt, all wrong; 
but one thing we have decided, which 
is that, no matter what you are like, we 



lo My Connaught Cousins. 

mean to look after you just the same as 
papa. Nora will see to your gun with 
papa's ; Biddy will make cartridges for 
you, and Aileen will tie you some of her 
best flies ; you shall do just as you like, and 
if you would rather not be bothered with 
so many girls, you shall spend nearly all 
your time alone with papa. But do come ! 
Your affectionate Cousins 

Kathleen, 

Nora, 

Aileen, 

OONA, 

Bridget, 
Amy, ^P 
Her mark. 

"P.;S. — Excuse the large blot. Amy writes- 
so badly we thought it better to make her 
put her mark, and in her excitement she 
made the blot instead, Kathleen." 

I sat down at once and wrote my reply. 



Jlly Connaiight Cousins. 1 1 

*' My dearest little Conn aught 
Cousins, — When I read your father's letter, 
I intended to refuse his invitation, for I am 
afraid of girls in general, and the thought 
of being surrounded by half-a-dozen ap- 
palled me ; but since I have read your letter 
my mind has changed. I have a sort of 
feeling you must be rather nice, and 
the temptation to make sure being too- 
great to be resisted, I mean to come. I 
have a few things to settle before I can 
leave London, but in about a week from to- 
day expect me, — Believe me, till then, your 
affectionate cousin, Jack Stedman." 

Having written the above, I added a line- 
to the old gentleman, and the thing was 
done. In exactly a week from that day, I 
turned my back on the smoke of London^ 
and set out with heroic heart to try life in 
the wilds of Connaught. 



CHAPTEE II. 




DREARY day and a dreary 
prospect ; the air was damp 
and chilly, and a thin misty 
rain was falling and slowly penetrating to 
the skin of the half-clothed little urchins 
who were either crouching in the doorways 
or wildly driving along their donkeys 
loaded with creels of turf. 

I was surveying this prospect from the 
window of the hotel, when the waiter 
suddenly appeared and announced that the 
•car was at the door to convey me to my 
journey's end. I found the landlord with a 
face fit to grace a funeral. From the 
moment of hearing my place of destination, 



My Connatight Cousins. 13 

he had looked upon me as raving mad, and 
had accordingly treated me with great 
forbearance, as a person who was per- 
haps, on the whole, harmless enough, 
but not at all responsible for his actions. 
As for getting any information from him 
about the place, that was perfectly hope- 
less. When I approached the subject, he 
merely answered, " Ah, it is a wild country, 
sir," sighed deeply, shrugged his shoulders, 
and walked off, evidently feeling that he 
had done his duty ; and if I was rash 
enough to go after that, why, I must take 
the consequences. Around him stood the 
ostler, the waiter, the boots, and about a 
dozen little ragged gorsoons, who stared at 
me with all their might and main, scrambled 
to obtain the few pence which were scattered 
amongst them, and uttered a wild Hooroo ! 
as the car rolled away. The landlord's 
parting sigh was wafted to me on the 
chilly wind, and had the effect of damp- 
ing my spirits for at least one half of the 



14 My Connaught Cousins. 

day. So I rolled out of the town of Bally- 
ferry, in the county of Mayo, Ireland, and 
was soon speeding along westward towards 
the ocean. 

The beginning of the drive was not 
very enjoyable ; the misty rain fell unceas- 
ingly, and the chilly wind was gradually 
awakening rheumatic reminiscences in my 
bones. The district through which I was 
passing was truly '' a wild country," for 
the most part flat and boggy, and disfigured 
here and there by unsightly mounds of 
fresh-cut turf; yet the recent rain had 
imparted greenness and freshness to the 
small patches of pasture, and given tone 
and richness of colour to the little knolls 
of purple heather here and there dotted 
about the unsightly bogs. The dim brown 
tinge of the melancholy landscaj^e was 
saddened still more by the dark and 
lowering atmosphere ; not a hill was to 
be seen, and not a tree ; nothing but a 
dark and dreary waste bordered on either 



My Connaught Cousins. 15 

side by a heavy mist and a threatening 
sky. 

I was on my way to Storport, and in 
spite of various misadventures by land 
and sea, I had so far managed to retain 
my ardent desire to try life in the wilds 
of Connaught. But I had not been many 
hours in Ballyferry, the nearest point at- 
tainable by rail, and fifty long miles from 
my destination, when my ardour was con- 
siderably damped by the dreary prog- 
nostics of O'Shaughnessy, the innkeeper, 
and his ragged retinue. Even the driver 
of the car seemed to be aflfected while 
under his master's eye ; but directly we 
turned the corner which shut the hotel 
from sight, his spirits rose considerably. 
He cracked his whip, shouted, whistled, 
yelled, and we sped aloDg merrily — 
soon to be joined by an excited Irish- 
man, dressed in a blue bob-tail coat with 
brass buttons, knee breeches, and a brim- 
less chimney-pot hat, who was smoking a 



1 6 My Connaught Cousins. 

very dirty, short pipe, and seated on the 
back of a donkey. An exciting race en- 
sued. My driver cracked his whip, and 
whistled ; the Irishman brandished his 
shillelagh and shouted and screamed at 
the top of his voice, and we rattled along 
in a perfect shower of mud and rain. The 
little donkey kept up bravely, and once or 
twice was on the point of leaving us behind 
altogether. But at last, after a short but 
sharp ride, Pat disappeared, with a defiant 
wave of the shillelagh, down an adjoining 
road. 

After this little distraction, the drive 
became more and more dreary and unin- 
teresting ; the thick mist shut out any 
view I might have had of the surround- 
ing country ; the driver seemed to lose all 
his spirits, though he still endeavoured in 
a moody way to urge the horses on. 
Hoping to put a little life into him, I 
handed him a drink from my flask, and 
told him to take it easy, as the horses 



My Connaught Cousins. 17 

were perhaps rather tired after their late 
race, but he had evidently no intention of 
letting them " take it easy," for he whipped 
and shouted louder than ever ; then he 
turned to me and breathlessly exclaimed, — 

" Faith, sor, the lazy beasts must make 
better speed than they're doing, or we'll 
never reach the river before night." 

" Well, suppose we don't, it's not such 
a dreadful place, I suppose ? " 

" Troth, it is though," he answered em- 
phatically ; " the river is tidal, and when 
it is swollen with the rain, the current 
is strong enough to sweep the horses off 
their legs. It's a dangerous place ; steep 
hills on both sides, and a rough, broken 
road ; one false step would may-be lead 
to your death. Did your honor not hear 
about it in Ballyferry ? " 

" Not a word. Have you ever crossed 
it before ? " 

" Only once, your honor. I was taking 
some young colleens across — it was these 

VOL. I. B 



1 8 My Connaught Cousins, 

ponies L had ; when we got into the 
water, one of the traces broke, and the 
whole weight fell on the one pony. It 
was a mercy she was a quiet and strong 
beast, and she managed to carry us through. 
It had been a dry season, and the water 
was low, and the tide was out, or. Lord, I 
think we should have been killed, for the 
poor beast could never have stood against 
the current with such a load on her back." 

" And do you think it is much swollen 
to-day?" 

" Faith, I do then, for not one dry day 
have we seen for eight weeks ; but we'll 
just stop here and ask about it from a 
man I know." 

Suiting the action to the word, he accord- 
ingly pulled up before a little thatched 
cottage which stood on the roadside, and 
called out some mystical sentence in Irish. 
After this had been repeated once or twice, 
a queer, smoke-dried looking old man made 
his appearance, and answered in the same 



3fy Connaught Cousins. 19 

unknown tongue. A conversation there- 
upon ensued, whicli, to judge from the 
despairing looks of the driver, was scarcely 
of an agreeable nature. At last he explained 
to me that things looked as black as they 
could possibly be ; the tide was in, the 
river was dreadfully swollen by the recent 
rain, and we would most probably not be 
able to cross before midnight, when the 
tide would be out. On hearing all this, 
I decided to go on and reconnoitre, as we 
might after all be able to get through, and 
if the worst came we must just camp on 
the banks until daybreak. So after again 
receiving the cheering information, " It's 
to a wild country your honour's goin'," 
I once more sped on my way. 

As the weather Srtill showed no signs of 
clearing, I rolled myself comfortably in my 
rugs, and prepared to take- a slight doze ; 
but just as I was dropping into a quiet 
sleep, I was suddenly called back to this 
fretful world by a frightful babble of voices, 



20 My Connaught Cousins. 

and the car coming to a full stop. On look- 
ing up to ascertain the cause of the delay, 
I saw that I was close on the banks of 
a stream which rushed down with great 
force between two steep hills. On the op- 
posite bank stood half-a-dozen ragged-look- 
ing Irishmen, wildly gesticulating and 
shoutiuo; out unintelligible words which 
were almost drowned in the roar of the 
waters. I looked around to the driver 
for an explanation, but he had disappeared 
from the box, aud was down at the water's 
edge answering his Irish friends in their 
own wild way. My first fears were at once 
confirmed ; this, then, was the river. But 
how were we to cross it ? It was so swollen 
by the continual rain and the full tide, that 
it seemed simply impossible for the horses 
to get through. With a quickly beating 
heart, I anxiously watched the faces of the 
men as they carried on their excited con- 
versation. Then one of them commenced 
to sound the passage, by sticking in a long 



My Connaught Cousins. 21 

stick. This proceeding was not of the 
slightest use, apparently, as he could not 
reach half a yard beyond the bank, but it 
evidently satisfied his companions, and after 
a little more shouting and waving the 
driver returned and announced his intention 
of crossing. 

" The boys think we had better make a 
dash at it," he said, " and we'll maybe come 
through safe — for if we wait for days we'll 
never have a better chance." 

" But do you think these men are to be 
trusted ? " I asked. 

"Faith, are they no, sir," he answered 
indignantly; " they've all the O'Donnell 
blood in their veins, and if I bade them lift 
the ponies and carry them over, they'd 
never refuse." 

Silenced at once by this proof of clannish 
fidelity, I allowed him to prepare the car, 
and when all was ready, I screwed up my 
courage to the highest pitch, and bravely 
took my seat by his side. The horses went 



2 2 My Connaught Cousins. 

down the hill at a spanking rate, and so 
steep was the descent, that once or twice 
I felt that the car would certainly be over- 
turned ; but the roughness of the road 
acted as a sort of drag, and saved us from 
any catastrophe. 

Then we entered the river ! such a 
splashing, jolting, and shouting was never 
heard ! Only the horses' backs were above 
water, and the car was half buried. How- 
ever, they brought us safely through, 
galloped furiously up the steep ascent be- 
yond, never once pausing until they stood 
panting and steaming on the top of the hill. 
I glanced back and shuddered at the ugly 
place through which I had come, then I in- 
quired how far it was to Storport. 

" Ten miles," was the quiet re]Dly ; " but 
there is a little shebeen close by where we 
will take a rest." 

The shebeen referred to was a tiny 
thatched hut standing in the roadside bog. 
When I first entered the room, the turf 



My Connaiight Cousins. 23 

smoke was so thick that I could see nothing ; 
but after a few moments my ejes grew more 
accustomed to it, and I could discern the 
brio;lit flames of a fire which was burninof in 
the middle of the floor, the smoke issuing 
through a hole in the roof. Over the fire 
was a large black cauldron suspended from 
a thick, black iron chain which hung from 
the rafters ; and around it sat on their 
hams several old women with their 
elbows on their knees, all smoking short 
clay pipes very black with age, and chatter- 
ing away in Irish. The whole scene forcibly 
reminded me of the " Witch scene " in 
" Macbeth," only the cauldron, instead of 
containing mystic ingredients, was filled with 
substantial potatoes. The floor of the other 
half of the room was strewn with straw, on 
which reposed two pigs, a sheep, a horse, 
and any number of hens. 

I speedily escaped into the fresh air to 
examine the state of the weather and the 
country. 



24 Mj/ Connaught Cousins. 

The thin misty rain still fell, but the 
lowering sky had begun to brighten and to 
show signs of clear weather coming. The 
landscape was of the same flat and boggy 
description as it had been throughout the 
journey ; nothing to enliven the scene ; not 
even a stone wall to vary the monotony of 
the desert land — all was dull, flat, and unpro- 
fitable. The very road was almost a bog, 
so sodden was it by the continual rain ; and 
outside the door of the hut the pigs and 
ducks were waddling in the mire. The 
prospect so damped my spirits, that I hailed 
with joy the appearance of the horses. 
They were led by an old man, dressed in 
the usual bob-tail coat and brimless hat, 
who addressed me with a queer mixture of 
dignity and respect. 

*' You're going to Storport, sir % " he 
said, touching his brimless hat in a stately 
military manner. 

" Yes." 

" It's a wild country, sir ! " 



My Connatight Cousins. 25 

I turned my eyes on the surrounding 
prospect. 

" If it's wilder than this," I involuntarily 
exclaimed, " it must be wild indeed." 

*' You see, sir," he continued, " here we lie 
snug and low, and the wind can't very well 
get at us, but, in troth, sir, at Storport — " 

I heard no more, for driven to despera- 
tion by the reiteration of these dreary 
prophecies, I jumped on to the car and 
drove away. 

The dismal vapours gradually cleared off, 
and ere long we got a peep of sunshine. 
The land was less barren, and here and 
there it was relieved by pastures and grassy 
hillocks. As we rolled along the hillocks 
gradually disappeared, and were replaced 
by heathery mountains. At last I was 
aroused by the joyful words, — 

" This is Storport, sir ; " and I caught my 
first sight of the little village. 

One glance convinced me that Storport 
had been libelled by my roadside inform- 



26 My Connaught Cousins, 

ants. The bad effects of the dreary pro- 
phecies which I had heard vanished from 
my mind as I beheld the quiet little haven 
of beauty which opened out before my 
delighted gaze. 

The car had come to a standstill on the 
top of the hill. I turned to the man, and 
asked if we had many miles further to go. 

" Sorra mile, or half a mile either," was 
the reply. 

" Can you see the house, then ? " 

*' I cannot, yer honor, but I can see the 
chimbleys of it ! See there, sir," he added, 
pointing to a clump of trees, from the midst 
of which streaks of smoke were issuing, 
*' tliat is Ballyshanrany ! " 

" Point me out the nearest route to the 
house," I said to the driver. ^* I'll finish the 
journey on foot." 

I leapt from the car as I spoke, and, 
having ordered him to follow with my 
luggage, I took a path which he pointed 
out to me across the bog. It was certainly 



My Connaught Cousins, 27 

a very short cut ; a walk of ten minutes 
brought me to the road again, and I found 
myself standing close to an iron gate, the 
private entrance to the grounds. 

I had raised my hand to open the gate, 
when the silence all around me was suddenly 
broken by a silvery peal of laughter. I 
waited till it ceased, then I laid my hand 
upon the gate, which swung back noiselessly 
upon its hinges, and entered the grounds. 

I could see nothing, for tall trees rose on 
either side, and the broad carriage drive, 
which I trod, took a sudden and sharp curve ; 
the house was completely hidden ; I walked 
quietly on ; then I turned the curve, and 
came in full view of the dwelling. 

The house, a plain, two-storeyed building, 
built of stone quarried from the bog, and 
roofed with slate, was almost buried in a 
profusion of ivy and flowers ; all the win- 
dows and doors stood open, and around 
them clustered roses and fuschias in full 
bloom. Before the front door was a rather 



28 My Connaught Cousins, 

neglected - looking lawn, gazing beyond 
which one beheld the blue of the open sea. 
The front door stood wide open, and on the 
threshold was spread a couple of bearskin 
rugs, seated on which, amidst the wealth of 
snow-white hair, was a little girl about five 
or six years old. She sat cross-legged, 
facing a number of dogs, which clustered 
eagerly before her, — dogs of all sizes and 
conditions, from one huge St Bernard down 
to the veriest mite of a terrier that ever 
worried at the life of a rat. It was the 
laughter of this little witch which had 
already reached me ; she was putting some 
of the dogs through their tricks, and every 
time they made a mistake she clapped her 
hands and laughed aloud. 

''Cousin number one!" I commented 
mentally, drawing back in the shelter of the 
trees, and gazing with amused eyes upon 
the child. I remembered, as I did so, the 
blot and the cross which had disfigured my 
much-prized letter, and having decided this 



My Connaught Cousins. 29 

little one's identity, I looked around for 
cousin number two. 

I had not far to look. 

A few yards from the door stood a small 
wicker table, strewn with powder, shot, 
wads, cartridge cases, etc., and at this table 
sat a young giii busily at work making 
cartridges. Again I mentally referred to 
my letter, and after having done so, I had 
little difficulty in recognising my cousin 
Bridget. She was certainly not so pretty 
as little Amy, who, with her warm brown 
skin, her sparkling black eyes and glossy 
hair, would have made a model which 
any painter might have been proud of. 
Still Bridget was not at all bad looking, 
and if she had been seen alone and not by 
the side of her little witch of a sister, she 
would have certainly demanded a second 
glance. But she had disadvantages to con- 
tend against, which had not yet come 
Amy's way. She was at that age when 
the figure has taken no definite form, when 



30 My Connaught Cousins, 

the arms and legs appear too long and 
dresses can never be made to fit ; neverthe- 
less, she had laughing blue eyes and a 
pleasant face, which she had contrived to 
disfigure by cropping ofi" all her hair. Yes, 
I instinctively felt that in Bridget I had 
not discovered the beauty of the family, 
but I had quite made up my mind that we 
should be excellent friends. 

Then I took another peep. 

This time I was disappointed. 

I was about to move forward, and 
boldly proclaim my presence, when my 
eye fell upon a sight which held me 
captive. 

Not very far from the table at which 
Biddy was so busily engaged, was a ham- 
mock swung up to the branches of two 
saplings, and in the hammock, lying at full 
length, with her head supported on her two 
clasped hands, was another of my Con- 
naught cousins. 

About seventeen years of age, tall and 



My Connaught Cousins. 31 

thin, with a skin like alabaster, and hair of 
rich warm gold. She was dressed in a 
robe of w^hite, which was daintily trimmed 
with lace, and here and there a knot of 
rose-coloured ribbon. Through the open 
work of the sleeves and boddice, you could 
see the warm tints of arms and neck. Her 
golden hair fell loosely on her shoulders, 
while her eyes gazed dreamily to the cloudy 
sky above. At last I had certainly come 
upon the beauty of the family, for no maiden, 
however fair, could be more charming. 

For a moment I stood gazing as if spell- 
bound, then I resolutely walked forward, 
and in one word made myself known. 

Heavens ! what a change ! 

Amy leaped up from her rug. Biddy from 
her table, and Oona — as I heard the others 
call the beautiful dreamer — slipt quietly 
from her hammock, and came forward smil- 
ing with the rest ! 

There was a moment, just a moment of 
confused silence, then a wild cry of — 



32 My Connaught Cousins, 

" Kate, Kate, do come out ! Here's 
cousin Jack ! " 

What happened after that I don't ex- 
actly know, but I was conscious of the 
presence of a somewhat buxom young 
woman of twenty, who stood in the door- 
way, addressed me as " Cousin Jack," and 
offered me her hand to shake and her 
cheek to kiss. Afterwards, using a cousin's 
privilege, I proceeded to kiss a few more 
cheeks, amongst which was the pretty pink 
and white one belonging to Oona, who, 
haviug recovered from her first start of 
surprise at my presence, accepted my salute 
with all the frankness of a child. To what 
length my ardour would have gone I am 
not prepared to say. I felt quite willing, 
however to kiss them all round again, if 
necessary, but my good intentions were 
summarily interru]3ted by the arrival of 
the car which I had deserted on the road, 
and which now appeared with my luggage. 

More confusion, more delighted laughter, 



My Connaiight Cousins. ^-iy 

and more words of welcome ! At a sum- 
mons from Kate there appeared upon the 
scene a couple of neatly-dressed servant- 
maids and a wild-looking Connaught boy ; 
one and all chattered to the driver in their 
unearthly tongue, while they possessed 
themselves of my goods. 

It must not be supposed that the girls 
were idle. Kate, — calm, self-possessed Kate, 
who had evidently been disturbed at her 
housekeeping — superintended the removal 
of my luggage, and gave her orders about 
it in the Irish language. Biddy was carry- 
ing in my fishing-rod, and a few loose 
parcels which were on the car. Oona was 
lifting down, with very tender hands, my 
strap full of books, while Amy, after having 
with a great deal of trouble silenced her 
yelping canine family, was staggering in 
beneath the weight of my ulster. 

It was certainly a new experience to me, 
but by no means an unpleasant one. Had 
I been more accustomed to female society, 
VOL. I. c 



34 M^y Connaught Cottsi. 



71S. 



and kept my wits about me, I sliould 
never liave allowed those pretty girls to 
turn themselves into serving-maids on my 
account ; but the novelty of the situation 
perfectly took away my breath and rendered 
me powerless. So I stood and looked on, 
feeling very much like a powerful Sultan, 
attended by the ladies of his court. 

At length the work was done. All my 
packages, both great and small, had been 
carried to my room ; the horses which had 
brought me thither had been led away to 
the stables, where they were to pass the 
night; and I stood in the spacious hall 
surrounded by the girls. 

" So you are my Connaught cousins ? " I 
said, looking at the cluster of up-turned 
faces. *' I must say, my dears, you are 
excessively jolly girls ! But I understood 
there were six of you ; where are the miss- 
ing two ? " 

" Nora and Aileen," said Kate, smiling, 
" are out riding, and papa has driven over 



My Coniiattght Cousms. 35 

to the moor ; bat," she added, ghmcing at 
the face of a very old-fashioned clock which 
stood ill the hall, " he'll be in to dinner in 
less than half-an-hoiir, — and won't he be 
astonished to find you here ! " 

" Will he ? " 

" Why, of course he will ; do you suppose, 
if you had written to say you were coming, 
we should have allowed you to arrive like 
this 1 I had arranged to send the car over 
to Ballyferry for you ; it would have stayed 
there all night, and brought you back the 
next day. Papa, Aileen, and Nora, were to 
ride as far as Glenderig to have taken you 
some lunch, which you could have eaten 
there, and escorted you back. And to 
think that, after all, you should take us by 
surprise ! " 

I explained to Kate that 1 had written, 
fixing not only the day, but the hour of 
my arrival at Bally shanrany. Kathleen 
did not seem the least astonished, but she 
looked rather more annoyed. 



36 My Connaught Cousins, 

" It's that Mickie the post ! " she said. 
" Sure it's time the work was taken away 
from him altogether, for he gets worse and 
worse. He hasn't brought me a letter for 
the last year that wasn't a month old at 
least. Last night he didn't deliver the 
letters at all. Shawn saw him at old 
Cormic's wake. Oh, cousin Jack, what 
inhospitable people you must have thought 
us to be sure !" 

I laughingly dispelled her fears, and in 
order to make things comfortable amongst 
us, I volunteered to say " How do you 
do?" all round again; the girls responded 
with heartiness to my offer of shaking 
hands ; when I offered to repeat my oscula- 
tory performance they laughingly drew back. 

" Well ! " I exclaimed, " I must hold to 
what I said just now. You are certainly 
nice girls — nobody would attempt to deny 
it — ^but you are not girls of your word. 
Wouldn't you let your father kiss you ? " 

*' Of course we would." 



My Connaught Cousins. ^j 

** And did you not promise in your letter 
to treat me like papa ? " 

" Ah ! yes," said Kate bluntly ; " but then 
we hadn't seen you, and we thought you 
were more like him." 

" Indeed, and what made you think I 
was like him ? " 

" Well, you are a barrister, you know, 
and we had decided amongst ourselves that 
all barristers must be old-fashioned, whereas 
you are quite young and — and — " 

*' And very handsome," added Amy 
candidly. " Fll kiss you, cousin Jack." 

All the girls laughed, and said Amy's 
conduct was shameless, while I lifted her 
on to a chair and kissed her brown cheek 
not once but half-a-dozen times, after which 
she generously volunteered to conduct me 
to my rooms. 



CHAPTER III. 



^J^m^HE lodge, though by no means 
^O yn? palatial-looking from the outside, 
^§4^1| must have been decidedly roomy 
within, since Kate had been able to set 
aside two very comfortable chambers for my 
sole and special use. The first room which 
I entered was a bedroom, furnished and 
fitted in a manner to suit the taste of the 
most fastidious of men. Everything was 
bright, clean, pleasant, and significant of a 
woman's careful hand. There were pretty 
lace draperies at the window, and snow- 
white hangings to the bed, freshly-plucked 
flowers on the dressing-table, while around 



My Connaught Cousins. 39 

the open casement clustered full-blown roses 
and fuchsias, the scent of which filled the 
room. On putting my head out of the 
window and looking down, I saw Oona's 
hammock, containing now only a half-open 
book, Biddy's table covered with half-made 
cartridges, and one or two of Amy's dogs. 
Looking straight forward, I beheld a bound- 
less expanse of sea. 

Having finished my survey of the bed- 
chamber, I passed on into the tiny room 
adjoining, which was evidently intended for 
my private sitting-room or study. There 
was no sign of the dressing-room about it, 
and the efi'orts of the girls had evidently 
been exerted to make it as great a contrast 
as possible to the dimity whiteness of my 
sleeping-chamber. 

It was the smallest and cosiest of rooms. 
A comfortable carpet covered the floor; the 
furniture was of plain oak, but there was a 
sofa and easy-chair ; on the mantel|)iece, 
besides a brazen timepiece, was a jar full of 



40 My Connaught Cousins. 

bird's-eye tobacco and a box of cigars ; and 
on the table, which was covered with a 
neat table-cloth, were a number of books. 
I glanced at the books, which had doubtless 
been selected for my special reading, and 
found them to consist of a New Testament, 
a guide-book to Connemara, Lord Byron's 
Poems (expurgated family edition, with 
Oona's name written on the fly-leaf), and 
an Irish treatise on fly-fishing. Nor was 
this all. Close to the window stood a pretty 
mahogany writing-desk, where I found sta- 
tionery, ink, pens, stamps, and even sheets 
of folios for scribbling, and a bronze read- 
ing lamp. There were more flowers here, 
both in the room and clustering outside 
the window, while the green trailing creepers 
contrasted pleasantly with the warm red 
curtains within. 

" My lines have fallen in pleasant places," 
I said, casting a last look around. Then, 
remembering Kate's words, " In half-an-hour 
papa will be in to dinner," I deemed the 



My Co7inatight Cousins. 41 

best thing I could do would be to put my- 
self in order for the family meal. 

I re-entered my bedroom, laid out my 
things, pulled off my coat, and unbuttoned 
my collar, when my operations were sud- 
denly stopped, — for the sounds which issued 
from below announced the arrival of the 
missing members of the family. 

I looked out. 

First a couple of horses cantered up the 
gravel walk, and paused before the hall- 
door, then I heard the rattling of carriage- 
wheels, after which a hearty voice ex- 
claimed, — 

" What ! you don't mean to say he's 
arrived, Kate ! God bless my soul, where 
is he ? " 

A minute afterwards I heard a good 
sound rap at my door, and, on opening it, 
I beheld my uncle. 

One glance, and my heart went out to 
him ; he was a man whom nobody could 
dislike. He was adored by all his tenantry, 



42 My Connaught Cousins. 

and idolised by bis girls. Now, for tbe 
first time, I could understand wby my 
motber's petted sister bad been induced to 
marry a man just twice ber age. I could 
understand also tbe unaffected candour of 
tbe girls. Kenmare was a gentleman from 
bead to foot, but tbere was no vestige in 
bim of self-consciousness or affectation. He 
was over sixty years of age, tall, broad- 
sbouldered, and firmly built ; bis bair and 
beard were of a pure iron grey, and bis face, 
tbougb bronzed and wrinkled, was band- 
some still. He was dressed in an old suit 
of nondescript brown, and tbe brown leg- 
gings, wbicb readied to bis knees, were 
covered witb bog-mire. He bad removed 
bis billycock bat, and tbe perspiration stood 
in beads upon bis brow. But bis face lit 
up into a brigbt smile wben be looked 
at me. 

" Well, my boy," be said, '' sure I am 
beartily glad to see you, and I bope, now 
you liave come, you mean to make a long 



l\Ty Conjtatight Cousins. 43 

stay. Will you join me in a glass of grog ? 
or has Kate given you too much already V 

I confessed that since my arrival I had 
had nothing, and added hastily that I was 
not in need of anything ; but my uncle was 
not to be put off. 

" Nonsense, my boy ! " he exclaimed, 
" after a journey like that any man would 
want a glass, so you'll just come down 
with me. I always take half a glass when 
I come in from shooting. It keeps out the 
cold, and gives me an appetite for dinner. 
You haven't got your coat on ? Never 
mind — this is Liberty Hall ! " 

So saying, and in spite of my remon- 
strances, he took me downstairs and mar- 
shalled me into a room where two young 
ladies were sitting, clad in riding-habits, 
with • their round felt riding-hats pushed 
back on their heads. My uncle introduced 
the young ladies as "Alley" and "Nora," 
and disposed of me as their " Cousin Jack." 
The girls looked up, stared, and laughed, 



44 ^y Connaught Cousins. 

then they rose, shook hands with me, and 
made off to dress for dinner. Kenmare 
turned to the waiting-maid, who was bring- 
ing in the cold water for his grog. 

" A glass for my nephew, Mary, my 
dear," he said, ** and when you're back in 
the kitchen tell that spalpeen Shawn to 
wake himself up a bit, for there's a 
new master for him at the lodge. Sure 
he's a lazy loon, but he knows his way 
about, and I mean him to look after Mr 
Stedman!" 

Then his eye fell upon Kate, who was 
passing on her way to the dining-room, and 
he exclaimed, — 

" Oh, Kate, Kate, where is all your Irish 
hospitality ? " 

" Sure, papa," returned Kate, blushing 
and laughing, ''it is not my fault. He 
arrived so suddenly ; he took us all so 
much by surprise, that I completely forgot 
he might be thirsty ! " 

Having disposed of my grog, I was al- 



My Connattght Cousins. 45 

lowed to go to my room again, receiving 
this time special orders to dress quickly, for 
the dinner would not be long. 

My first care was to stand before the 
glass and examine myself critically. As I 
did so, I called up the imaginary picture 
w^hich the girls had drawn of me, and un- 
derstood the startled look of surprise which 
had come into their eyes, as they had rested 
the first time upon me. 

" Middle-aged, and old-fashioned ! " I 
was certainly neither. I was tall and slim, 
and despite my thirty years my worst enemy 
could not have accused me of looking 
more than twenty-five. Perhaps this last 
fact was owing to the lack of hair on my 
face, for beyond a slight moustache which 
shaded my upper lip, I had none. 

Having examined myself, and feeling 
rather pleased with the result, I turned 
from the glass and hurried on with my 
operations for dressing. I had brought a 
few suits with me, but they had been select- 



46 My Connaught Cousins. 

ed more with a view to sport than ladies' 
society. True, I had been perfectly aware 
that I was about to be introduced into the 
society of half-a-dozen girls, but I had not 
thou2;ht the whole of them worth the car- 
riage of a suit of dress clothes. As I 
acknowledged this, and remembered how 
well a suit of dress clothes became me, I 
continued my dressing in anything but a 
contented frame of mind. 

I had finished, and was about to take 
another survey of myself in the glass, when 
a gong sounded loudly. I hastily descended 
the stairs, crossed the hall, and entered the 
dining-room. 

I was the last to arrive. 

There was my uncle, habited now in a 
suit of dark tweed, with spotless linen, 
which showed off to perfection his bronzed 
cheeks and iron-grey hair ; and there were 
the girls, all six of them, looking as fresh 
as new-blown roses, all nicely dressed in 
delicate whites and creams and pinks, and 



My Connmtght Cousins. 47 

presenting as pretty a picture as one could 
liope to see on a summer's day. 

The only bit of shade was introduced by 
Kate, and she, being the oldest, and, as it 
were, the matron of the family, had thought 
it consistent with her matronly dignity to 
wear shades of a sombre hue. She was 
dressed that night in a costume of soft 
black lace, with slashings of amber, and 
she carried a couple of pale yellow roses at 
her throat and in her black hair. 

The dinner passed off merrily. We were 
waited upon by the couple of neat Irish 
colleens who had carried in my luggage. 
Both the food and the drink were good. 
My uncle kept us amused with some good 
stories ; and the girls had learnt the diffi- 
cult lesson of not to expect a lot of foolish 
attentions from a man when he's tired 
and hungry. They talked to their father 
and to each other ; but for the time being 
they were generous enough to let me 
alone. 



48 My Connaught Cousins. 

During the dinner I felt grateful enough 
for their consideration ; but after the inner 
man was refreshed, and when all the girls 
had retired to the drawing-room, it was 
another matter. Then I began to long 
for their society ; so, presently seeing that 
my uncle was growing sleepy over his 
grog, I proposed that we should "join the 
ladies." Nothing loath he rose, and we 
repaired to the drawing-room together. 

All the girls were "there, and most of 
them were occupied ; but the one who 
attracted the most of my attention was 
Amy. She sat on the hearth, just as I 
had seen her sitting on the door-step, 
surrounded and almost smothered by that 
strange collection of dogs. The tiniest 
mite of the collection, a shaggy little ter- 
rier, was curled up in her lap ; while the 
sole desire of the others seemed to be to 
touch some part of her pretty little body. 
They rested their heads on her shoulder, 
they poked their cold noses into her little 



My Connmtght Cousins. 49 

hands, they sniffed about her hair, they 
leisurely licked her brown cheek. 

I took my seat with the party, and by 
dint of a few well-applied questions, managed 
to make myself tolerably well acquainted 
with one and all. 

Thus I learned that Kate was not only 
the good fairy at home, but in the village ; 
that she helped the needy and cured the 
sick, taking very often the place of the 
<loctor, who had a strong liking for whisky, 
and consequently was not always equal to 
the demands made upon him. But what 
did the villagers care ? They knew that at 
the lodge there was a medicine chest as 
good or better than any in the doctor's 
surgery ; that at any hour, both day and 
night, Kate was ready to answer the call of 
the sick ; that for the performance of opera- 
tions which were well within her knowledge, 
her hand was as sure as the doctor s ; and 
most important of all, that she always 

VOL. I. D 



50 My Connaught Cousins. 

carried a basket well filled with dainties^ 
for the patient to eat. Consequently Kate's 
hands were always pretty full. Some- 
times the sick were brought to the 
lodge and treated in the room known 
as " Kate's Surgery, " but when they 
were too ill to be removed she went to- 
them. 

Aileen and Nora had a passion for riding, 
and spent a good deal of their time on the 
backs of a couple of country hacks which 
their father had given them. In this way 
they managed to render some valuable 
assistance to Kate. In the course of a 
morning's ride they could visit half - a - 
dozen patients and report progress ; they 
had also a couple of capacious saddle-bags 
which Kate could fill. Besides this, 
Aileen was fond of a good day's fishing, 
and there wasn't a boy in Connaught could 
beat her at tying a fly. 

As for Oona, I found at once she was a 
dreamer, and lived in a world of her own. 



My Connaiight Cousins. 5.1 

She was fond of roaming about the village 
alone, of visiting spots made interesting in 
her eyes by their connection with legends 
and fairy tales. After having listened 
with breathless interest to the tales told by 
the old cauliaghs of the village, she would 
return to her home to lie in her hammock, 
and dream. She had also a tiny study at 
the top of the house, I was told, where she 
sometimes sat to write out the poems and 
romances, which she hoped some day to be 
able to give to the world. When quite a 
little child, and up to the age of fourteen, 
she had been a zealous contributor to Little 
Folks' Magazine, and for certain stories 
published therein she had received a couple 
of silver medals and a beautifully bound 
volume of ^sops Fables. I was promised 
a sight of these treasures, then hidden in 
the study. 

Biddy and Amy, the youngest of this 
girl-garland, were supposed not to have 
formed any particular tastes at all. Biddy's 



LIBRARY 
UNIVERSnYOFailKQfS 



52 My Connaught Cousins. 

chief occupation seemed to be to look after 
lier father's fishing tackle and cartridges, 
while Amy they thought might turn out to 
be a clever musician, since at the early age 
of six she had actually composed an Irish 
jig. When I expressed my amazement 
that the child should surround herself by 
all the dogs that chose to hang about the 
establishment, I was informed that the 
creatures were Amy's special pride, and that 
the whole family belonged solely to her, 
since they had been given to her by friends 
on her birthdays. 

" They discovered somehow that she 
had a liking for pets," said Kate, " and 
so as every birthday came round, two or 
three were sure to arrive. Papa is answer- 
able for it; it was he who first developed 
her liking for dogs. He gave her Nero 
when she was only a year old, and he 
has watched over her ever since. Amy, 
you ought to introduce Nero to cousin 
Jack." 



My Connaiight Cousins. 53 

" Where is he ? " said Amy, looking 
round ; and she called his name. 

At first the call produced no result. 
The little terriers of the family frisked 
about and wagged their tails, and the white 
Gordon setter turned his eye sleepily upon 
Amy and yawned. Upon the call being 
twice repeated, however, the drawing-room 
door opened, and there stalked majestically 
in a handsome, black, curly-coated retriever. 
He looked neither to the right nor the left, 
but walked quietly forward to where his 
little mistress sat, paused before her, and 
gazed inquiringly into her face. She took 
his head between her hands, and bestowed 
two or three fond kisses upon his coal-black 
nose. He sneezed violently, shook his head, 
looked very much disgusted, but made no 
attempt to move. Amy laughed delightedly. 

'* He hates being kissed," she cried ; " he 
can't bear me to love him. Oh, you dear, 
disagreeable old Nero, go and say ' How do 
you do ? ' to cousin Jack ! " 



54 ^y Connaught Cousins, 

He turned his eye towards me ; after a 
moment's hesitation he walked quietly over 
to where I sat, looked at me critically for a 
moment, then graciously lifted his paw. 

" Shake hands ! " screamed Amy enthusi- 
astically. " Sure you must shake hands 
at once, for it's a sign he likes you. Papa, 
papa, just look at Nero giving a welcome 
to cousin Jack ! " 

" He's a nice dog, isn't he ? " said Kate, 
'when the ceremony of shaking hands was 
over ; " and he is a good dog too. He once 
saved Amy's life ! " 

'' Indeed ! " 

" Yes ; about two years ago the nurse, 
unknown to me, took Amy and Nero with 
her and went out for a sail on the sea. A 
squall capsized the boat not far from land ; 
both the nurse and the boy who was sailing 
the boat were drowned, but old Nero swam 
to shore with Amy in his mouth." 

" By Jove ! " I cried ; " he's a fine 
fellow ! " 



My ConnaiigJit Cousins. 55 

"And, will yon believe it, ever since that 
day he has never allowed her to go out 
without him. If she attempted to shut him 
up he'd tear the house down. One day he 
was shut in Oona's room for safety. Amy 
had gone with some of the girls to a wedding 
in Father John's chapel on the other side of 
the Ferry. In the middle of the ceremony 
the company were startled by the sudden 
iippearance of Nero, — dripping from his 
swim across the estuary, and with a cut and 
bleeding nose. He had broken the glass 
iind leapt out of the window, and tracked 
her there ! " 

I turned to Nero, who still stood looking 
critically at me. He answered my look by 
leisurely wagging his tail. I patted his 
head approvingly, and I certainly felt glad 
that he should have deemed it worth his 
while to give me a special welcome to 
Ballyshanrany. 



CHAPTEE IV 




T is now four weeks since I 
arrived at Storport, and al- 
ready the old life in London 
seems like a half-forgotten dream. Jack 
Briefless is transformed into Jack Viator, 
I am a full-blossomed sportsman, fisherman, 
boatsman ; in fact, a regular Connaught 
man. I can drink whisky neat, and I 
have learned to love the taste of potheen, 
I know almost every man, woman, and 
child in the place. I have gone sal- 
mon-fishing with the clergyman, and cours- 
ing with the priest. Over and above all 



My Connaught Cousins. 57 

this, is my Sultan-like position in the 
house. The girls adore me, and I adore 
the girls. 

As to my uncle, he is the prince of good 
fellows. His horses, his dogs, his carriages, 
his daughters, and his servants are all at 
my disposal. But no one bothers me. I 
come and go just as I please. Every day 
I can make my own programme. If I want 
to go shooting, dogs and guns are ready. 
If I prefer to stay at home loafing, the 
girls have a thousand devices to amuse me. 
It is a lazy life and a merry ; my only 
fear is that it will utterly spoil me for 
civilisation. 

The good fairies of the lodge have 
given me an attendant Gnome, who is at 
my beck and call whenever I choose to 
rub the magic ring if I fancy, and sum- 
mon him to wait upon me. 

His name is Shawn na Chauliagh, or 
John of the Ferry, so called because he is 
one of the large family reared by the 



58 My Connatight Cousins. 

ferryman who plays Charon between Stor- 
port and the neighbouring islands. He 
stands six feet high in his brogues, has 
hair of wondrous redness, and a face 
stained mahogany-brown with wind and 
weather ; is twenty -five years old ; can tie 
a fly and cast a line ; can walk from the 
lodge door to the highest mountain with- 
out pausing for breath ; knows every cor- 
ner of the moors and every pool of the 
waters, and is a prime favourite with 
both the gentry and the tenantry. The 
district is proclaimed, and is entirely 
given over to the landlord shooters ; 
but wherever I go I know I am safe 
Avith Shawn. 

Two or three mornings after my arrival, 
my attendant spirit made his first appear- 
ance. 

I was standing at the lodge-door with 
my uncle, preparatory to mounting the 
car and being driven over to the Owen- 
nuff (ten miles off) for a day's fishing, 



My Connaught Cousins, 59 

when there appeared before us a tall, 
powerful figure with a fishing-basket on 
his back, a staff in his hand, thick 
brogues, tattered trousers rolled up to the 
knee, showing a bare pair of herculean 
legs. 

" Shawn, ye rogue," said my uncle, " are 
you ready ? " 

" I am, yer honor," replied the giant. 

" Have you the lunch in your basket, 
and the whisky ? " 

" Yes, your honor." 

"■ This is my nephew, Mr Jack. So long 
^s he remains here he's your master, re- 
member ; — you'll take good care of him and 
show him the best sport in the country. 
Do you mind, now ? " 

Shawn smiled and nodded, and then, 
in Connaught fashion, held out his hand, 
which I took and pressed. At that mo- 
ment the car came round. I jumped up 
by the driver in front, Shawn mounted 
behind, and away we drove, while my uncle 



6o My Connatight Cousins. 

cried "good luck" to us, and waved his- 
hat from the house-door. 

Shawn was very reticent that day. I fell 
a little in his estimation when, by terrible 
bungling, I lost my first salmon. But he 
soon made w^ his mind that I, although 
nominally his master, was a sort of a helpless 
lunatic, to whom he was to act as a tempo- 
rary keeper and protector. When I hesitated 
about crossing from one part of the river to 
another, he quietly took me on his back, 
and strode across with me, wading waist 
deep. He showed me how to throw a fly 
properly, and when my arms grew tired, 
which they did very quickly, he took 
the rod and fished the waters leisurely 
himself. 

His opinion of me sank for a moment 
when he saw me dilute my whisky with 
water, but it rose again rapidly when he 
found that I drank very little of the spirit,, 
and gave him as his portion more than two- 
thirds of my uncle's large flask. 



My Connaught Cousins. 6i 

From that clay forward we became firm 
friends and allies. 

Some of Shawn's sayings and doings are 
memorable for their oddity. The other day, 
as we were trudging over the moor in search 
of the snipe, which were just beginning to 
arrive, driven hither by the first w^hite frost, 
w^e saw, quietly contemplating us from an 
adjacent knoll, the head of a donkey. 

The sight encouraged me to a foolish joke. 

" Look there, Shawn ! " I exclaimed, 
" isn't that the Diaoul f " 

The Diaoul is Connaught for the name of 
his Satanic Majesty. Shawn did not smile ; 
indeed, his countenance seldom or never 
relaxed from its friendly solemnity, but 
with the quiet yet resjDcctful air of superior 
knowledge peculiar to him, he proceeded to 
correct me. 

"Indeed then, your honor," he replied, 
"it is notV' 

Then, meeting my look of inquiry, he 
calmly continued, — 



62 My Connaiight Cousins, 

" Sure there are two things the Diaoul 
can never put hisself into. It's aisy enough 
for the Diaoul to put hisself into a sheep^ 
or a dog, or a bull, or a sealgh, or a crane, 
or a wild goose, your honor ; but sorra a 
man living ever saw him like a donkey, or 
like a pig ! " 

We walked slowly on ; after a few minuter 
Shawn observed thoughtfully, — 

"They're saying, your honor, that pigs 
can see the ivind ! " 

" Indeed ! " I exclaimed. 

" And that it's of a red colour ! " 

" Is that so, Shawn ? " I exclaimed, laugh- 
ing ; " then, if only pigs are gifted enough 
to perceive it, one of them m-ust have been 
your authority." 

Shawn didn't seem to understand me, 
but strode on in a dark reverie, surprised 
that I should treat so solemn a subject with 
anything like levity. 

It would be in vain to deny the fact that 
Shawn's weakness is a love for distilled 



My Connaiight Coiisins. 63 

spirits, and I am afraid that my companion- 
ship has not helped to reform him. This 
reminds me that my cousin Kathleen, who 
is a zealous abstainer, and does a good 
deal of teetotal work in the village, has 
been trying for a long time to get Shawn 
to sign the pledge ; — just before my arrival 
she almost succeeded. 

After having disappeared for two or three 
days, and returned with all the signs upon 
him of a heavy carouse, Shawn appeared, 
penitent and crestfallen, at the lodge. He 
was no longer refractory ; he was quite ready 
to sign the pledge. Delighted at this con- 
version, Kate led him into the little parlour 
which she used as housekeeper's room, pro- 
duced pen and ink, and the usual teetotal 
card for Shawn s signature. 

"I'm so glad, Shawn," she said, "that 
you mean to reform. Drinking is so wicked, 
so very wicked ! " 

" Indeed, then, Miss Kathleen, it is I'' 

"And when you've made up your mind 



64 My Connaught Cousins. 

to give it up altogether, you'll be so much 
happier in your mind ! " 

" Indeed, then, Miss Kathleen, that's 
true ! " 

*' Put your mark there, where I have put 
your name, — John O'Donnell ! " 

Shawn hesitated a moment, scratching his 
head, then took the pen, and with infinite 
trouble, holding his head sideways, and 
lolling out his tongue like a school-boy, 
contrived to make his mark ; the mark 
made, he' looked at it proudly, then turning 
to his young mistress with a smile which 
was a strange compound of shyness, sim- 
plicity, and self-satisfaction, he exclaimed, — 

" And now, Miss Kathleen, you'll shust 
fetch out the bottle, and give me one glass ! " 

Even after that exhibition of Shawn's 
complicated perception of the nature of an 
oath, my cousin did not let him escape her. 
She lectured him soundly, and at last con- 
vinced him that he stood pledged not to 
touch a drop of anything, unless (here, alas ! 



My Connaught Cousins. 65 

Kate added a fatal corollary) he was dan- 
gerously ill, and absolutely needed the spirit 
as a medicine. 

The next day Shawn was taken alarmingly 
bad " with the colic," and messengers came 
flying up to the lodge to beg a " little drop 
of whisky, for the love of God." My uncle, 
who was at home alone, sent down the 
physic. From that day forth, until Kath- 
leen indignantly released him from his 
promise, Shawn's health was a subject of 
considerable alarm to his relatives, his in- 
ternal attacks occurring with strange fre- 
quency, and yielding to no medicine but 
one. 

So much for Shawn's addiction to the 
bottle. While admitting his infirmity, I 
must do him the justice to say that I have 
never seen him drunk, or stupidly intoxi- 
cated ; it would take a large quantity, 
indeed, to afiect his seasoned carcase ! 

And let me admit, moreover, that he is 
no worse than his betters. Everybody loves 

VOL. I. E 



66 Aly Connaught Cousins. 

whisky in this district. My own uncle 
can take his glass freely. His neighbours 
and his servants are free drinkers. The 
priest, Father John Murphy, would have 
been a bishop long ago (I have it on his 
own authority) but for the bottle, and his 
curate, Father Tim Doolan, has twice been 
suspended. The doctor, an M.D. of Dublin, 
is seldom or never sober. 

This reminds me that shortly after my 
arrival I heard great accounts of the priest's 
conversational powers and the doctor's jovi- 
ality. " They were characters," my uncle 
said, " to be studied and enjoyed," and he 
told me a dozen merry stories concerning 
them. 

They called one morning together, and 
sadly disappointed me, for neither had a 
word to say for himself. Father John, a 
powerfully-built man of five-and-forty, with 
a coal-black coat and a rubicund complexion, 
was the picture of melancholy. Doctor 
Maguire, a little, round man, with bristling 



My Connattght Cousins. 67 

black hair, dressed in a rough tweed suit, 
and carrying a heavy walking-stick, looked 
fit for a funeral. 

No sooner were they seated in the 
parlour than my uncle brought out the 
bottle and glasses. 

" Not for me, Mr Kenmare," said Maguire 
gloomily ; "I'm not tasting." And he 
explained that he had taken the pledge 
for a month. 

My uncle turned to Father John, who 
put up his hand and shook his head. 

" Nor myself neither ! " he exclaimed. 
" It's the bishop has made me promise not 
to take a glass till next confirmation." 

My uncle did not press them, but put 
the materials down upon the table mid- 
way between them. Then I, to whom 
they had just been introduced, tried to 
draw them into conversation. Impossible. 
They sat like martyred men, lugubrious, 
monosyllabic. Where were their jovial 
ways, their jests, their wreathed smiles ? 



68 My Connaught Cousins. 

Gone ; and as for the country, the weather, 
the people, they hadn't a good word to say 
of any of them. It was a miserable world. 

Presently my uncle was called out of 
the room by one of the girls. Slightly 
embarrassed by my strange company, I 
walked over to the window and looked 
out. Then I heard the following conver- 
sation carried on by the two worthies, 
whom, slightly turning, I watched out of 
the corner of my eye : — 

" Father John, sir, you're looking mighty 
pale!" 

" No paler than yourself, doctor ; I'm 
grieved to see you looking so bad." 

A pause. Each fidgeted, and cast a sly 
glance at the bottle. 

*' Is it the green sickness that's on ye, 
doctor ? Holy saints, take care of your 
health ! " 

" It's a bad cold I have got, Father John. 
But look after yourself, for I'm in dread 
the fever is coming on ye ! " 



My Connaught Cousins. 69 

" What's good for that, doctor ? " 

"A glass of Jamieson, or maybe two 
glasses." 

**And for your own green sickness, 
doctor ? I'm asking ye as ye're a medical 
man ! " 

"There's no cure but one, and sure I 
have taken the pledge, and can't taste." 

Another pause. The men looked sadly 
at one another, and then at the bottle. 

" Father John," said Maguire suddenly, 
" as your medical adviser, sir, I insist on 
your taking a glass of Jamieson ! " 

"Dr Maguire," cried the other, "I'll 
not have your death on me conscience ! 
Take a drop of the creature to cure your 
sickness, and, by all the saints, I'll absolve 
you! 

Almost simultaneously their hands were 
stretched out towards the bottle. The 
priest's hand seized it first, and poured 
out two brimming measures. Each clutched 
a glass, and lifted it to his thirsty lips. 



70 Aly Connaught Cotisins. 

At that moment my uncle re-entered the 
room, and roared with laughter at the 
picture. Both men joined in the merri- 
ment. Almost instantaneously they were 
transformed. Jest, story, and song flowed 
from their magically -loosened lips. Before 
they left the room. Father John had sung 
" The Vale of Avoca " in the richest Irish ; 
and Dr Maguire had given his famous 
description of how the piper of Achill was 
anointed, waked, and half buried when 
he was lying unconscious, not dead, but 
dead drunk, after Andy O'Shaughnessy's 
wedding ! 

Such are two of the leading worthies of 
the place. There are others to whom I 
shall endeavour to introduce my reader in 
due course ; but these two are paramount. 
Both, I may observe in passing, have strong 
popular sympathies. Father John, at his 
second bottle, is easily persuaded to de- 
nounce the Saxon — in other words, he stands 
erect, and with many sawings of his right 



My Connaught Cousins. 71 

arm, thunders out a bloodthirsty poem con- 
tributed some years ago to the Nation. 
Maguire, at the same stage, sings, " Kory 
of the Hills," and other Fenian ditties, with 
tremendous unction. Both mean no harm ; 
neither would hurt a fly, I am sure of that. 
They do these things in what may be called, 
referring to a certain famous discussion, a 
" Pickwickian spirit," — it is a part of their 
profession, a phase of their local humour. 

It is very curious to me to dwell in a 
district so disaff'ected, and to see every- 
thing so tranquil and so pleasant. 

When I came over I brought a revolver 
with me, thinking I carried my life in my 
hand, but my uncle and the girls laughed 
outright at my fears. Yet not a mile from 
their door this summer, Mr Freeland, a 
Scotch farmer, was shot down dead in cold 
blood close to the church-door ; and in the 
thick of the fair at Westport I had pointed 
out to me the actual murderer of Lord 
Antrim. Nay, am I not on the most inti- 



72 My Connaught Cousins. 

mate terms with Conolly Magrath, who has 
the worst reputation in the whole place. 

Conolly is a little, mild-spoken man, with 
pale blue eyes, a watery mouth, and the 
most amiable of tempers. To look at him, 
you would take him for a lamb in human 
form. He attends to my uncle's horses, 
and accompanies us sometimes on boating 
excursions, adores the ''young mistresses," 
as he calls them, and worships my uncle, 
who has more than once got him out of 
serious trouble. 

"They tell me, Conolly," I said to him 
one morning, " that you know who shot Mr 
Freeland % " 

Conolly, who was busily rubbing up some 
old harness, smiled, a smile that was child- 
like and bland. 

"Is it me, your honor ? Now, who would 
be after telling you that same ?" 

" Never mind who told me ; but come 
now, you do know something about it ; don't 
you ?" 



Aly Connanght Cotisins. 



/ o 



" Sorra haportli, yer honor ! " he replied, 
still smilinor. 

"Well, now, didn't you threaten Mr 
O'Niel of the Castle, your own land- 
lord r 

''I did not, then!" was the reply; he 
added naively, " I only told him the truth. 
I said that if he asked for the rent this year, 
maybe the boys would be firing a shot or 
two at him, for fun to themselves ! " 

I looked at him with OTave indignation. 

" It's a shocking state of things ! " I 
cried ; *' a disgrace to Ireland. Scarcely a 
day passes but some new^ outrage is re- 
ported ! " 

" I'm in dread, your honor," returned 
Conolly, " that it'll never stop till the boys 
get hold of the land their own selves ! " 

" And pay no rent ? ridiculous ! " 

"-Sure, how can the poor creatures pay 
rent, when they've sorra penny in the 
world ? " 

I fixed my eyes upon him. 



74 -^fy Connaught Cousins. 

"Don't you think God would punish 
you," I said, " if you took away a precious 
human life ? " 

Conolly was not smiling now ; his pale 
face had turned a trifle whiter, and there 
was a curious working about his lips. 

" I'd never do that same, your honor ! " 

" I'm glad to hear you say so. YovHd 
never commit murder, I am sure ! " 

" Is it me, your honor ? But I put it 
to your own self, what harm would there 
be for a poor boy to hill a tyrant ? " 

" Why, that is murder ! " I exclaimed. 

" Is it, then, your honor ? " he replied, 
smilingly. " Sure, then, they don't call that 
murder down here in Connaught." 

To this day I can't quite make out 
whether Conolly is a rogue or simpleton. 
I am less decided in my opinion concerning 
his blood relation and great factotum, Mrs 
Jack Timlin, who kept the village inn. 

" Sure there's only one man in my 
parish," said Father John one day, *' and 



Aly Connaught Cousins. 75 

he's a woman," refemng to this same Mrs 
Timlin. This extraordinary person, the 
widow of the late lamented Jack Timlin, 
who got wounded in the head in the West- 
port riots, has more influence in the district 
than any other individual, rich or poor. She 
is said to be the head of the Eibbon con- 
spiracy hereabouts, and it is asserted that 
every dark crime which has been perpetrated 
in the neighbourhood, had been sealed and 
covenanted in her little parlour. 

Physically, she is a tall, lean woman, with 
a sickly complexion, induced partly by her 
habit of smoking strong tobacco. She has 
large, bold eyes, an impudent expression, 
and a determined jaw. She dresses very 
shabbily, much like the poor people here- 
abouts, but wears in addition to the usual 
short gown and petticoat, a large widow's 
cap -cocked somewhat rakishly on the top 
of her unkept black hair. She is said to be 
rich — at all events she lends money at high 
interest to the country people, and woe to 



76 Afy Connaught Cousins, 

the man or woman, however poor, who fails 
to keep faith with her in the repayment of 
instalments. 

Mrs Jack Timlin, though a furious Land 
Leaguer, would sell up and demolish Mr 
Parnell himself if he owed her a penny. 

She is at once the terror and admiration 
of the district. On principle she had 
seldom or never paid any rent, and the 
landlord never thought of turning her out 
of her hostelry till some months ago, when, 
indignant and desperate, he gave her warn- 
ing to quit. Being of a careful turn of 
mind, she at once insured the place, with all 
its furniture and stock, for a heavy sum. A 
few weeks after the insurance was effected 
the place was burned to the ground. It 
appeared on inquiry that a stupid caretaker, 
whom the widow had left in charge of the 
place while she visited some friends in West- 
port, had one night gone to bed in his 
clothes with a lighted pipe in his mouth, 
and awakening found the room in flames. 



Afy Connaught Cousins. 'jj 

He had tlion rushed out, and sat down 
quietly on the opposite side of the road, 
where the police had found him at daybreak, 
contemplating the blackened walls. Ques- 
tioned by the constable as to why he had 
failed to give the alarm, he had protested 
he hadn't dared, for the life of him, to leave 
the spot, — the widow Timlin having sworn 
him solemnly, before she left, to ^'keep his 
eye upon the house;'' which he had done 
accordingly, to his own perfect satisfaction, 
and it is recorded that of the widow. 

These are some of the worthies of the 
village ; as for the village itself, and its 
situation, I find I have said little or 
nothing about them. Words are of little 
use to call up natural scenery ; so a few 
rough lines of description must serve for 
a picture of what could only be properly 
reproduced by pencil or brush. 

The small cluster of huts which bears the 
dignified title of "The Village," stands 
upon a grassy hillock, about two hundred 



78 Aly Connaiight Co2Lsins. 

yards from the sea-shore. A magnificent 
range of hills runs for miles inland and 
almost entirely surrounds it. In the far 
distance stretching out into the sea, and 
partly cutting ofi* the sweep of the open 
ocean, is Erris Head. 

A sandy bar, formed by the incessant 
washing of the sea upon the soft sand, 
stretches from the cliffs on either side, and 
forms a sort of breakwater, keeping the 
little bay within in a state of comparative 
calm ; and so effectual is it, that even in the 
roughest winter weather, when outside the 
rollers and breakers are raging wildly, and 
the spray is dashing about the rocks and over 
the summits of the cliffs, the bay within 
is comparatively still, and one may use a 
small boat with perfect safety. It is im- 
possible, however, to cross the bar until the 
waves have entirely subsided and sunk 
into a partial calm. 

There are two estuaries, one on either 
side of the village, which extend for miles 



My Connaught Cotcsins. 79 

inland, winding and turning among the 
hills. At high tide they swell into magnifi- 
cent fjords or arms of the sea, but at low 
water they sink into insignificant stretches 
of mud and rivulet, and sometimes, espe- 
cially during the low spring tides, it is pos- 
sible to walk across the strand dry shod. 

Shawn's father is the ferryman — that is to 
to say, he is the ferryman so called, but his 
duties are done by all the members of his 
numerous family, including any number 
of shock-headed gorsoons and black-eyed 
colleens, of all sizes and ages, and in all sorts 
of costumes. 

The ferryboat is an enormous structure, 
generally out of repair. When any one 
wants to come or go across, there is no 
hurry. I have seen the priest myself gesti- 
culating for a whole hour on the opposite 
side of the estuary, without making the 
slightest impression on the ferry family, 
who were tranquilly digging in the potato 
fields close by. 



8o My Connaught Cousins. 

The ferry is, of course, a shebeen, and 
potheen flows there like water. Sometimes 
the whole family get drunk together, and 
go to bed for the day. 

One of Shawn s brothers, " a little shmall 
boy" of twenty, big as a grenadier, carries 
the letters. He generally takes his own 
time about delivering them, and they have 
been known to arrive in an advanced stage 
of decomposition. If anything were needed 
to prove that we are quite outside the pale 
of civilisation here in Connaught, it would 
be the charmingly informal method of the 
postal delivery. 




CHAPTER V. 




ACK, my boy," said my uncle 
one evening, '' be ready at ten 
to-morrow for a sail up to 
Glenamoy. Charlie BIngley and Achill 
Murray are coming over from tlie castle, 
and we mean to have a pleasant day, please 
God." 

So it was settled ; and while we were 
seated next morning at breakfast, young 
Bingiey, in the kilt, and Murray, in a 
knickerbocker suit, looked in — the former 
a lanky hobbledehoy, much given to dark 
musings on the reluctant growth of his 
own whiskers ; the latter a square-set, jolly 
VOL. I. F 



82 My Connattght Co2tsins. 

fellow of five -and -thirty, and despite his 
Scotch extraction, one of the most poj)ular 
men in the district. Mrs Bingley of the 
castle possessed large salmon fisheries, 
Murray was her overseer, and Charlie her 
hopeful son and heir. 

Breakfast over we strolled out to the 
" Yawl," which we found w^aiting for us, 
manned by four sturdy rowers — Shawn, two 
of his big brothers, and Conolly Magrath. 
Eugs were spread in the stern, and others 
in the bow, to sit or lie on, and there were 
cheerful glimpses of bottles and capacious 
luncheon baskets. 

My uncle carried his rifle ; I had my 
new Holland choke bore, and Bingley was 
content with a muzzle-loader, an old Joe 
Manton. 

Three of the girls, Kathleen, Aileen, and 
Oona w^ere of the party, and all were in 
the best of spirits. I had almost forgotten 
to mention Nero, Amy's retriever, which she 
lent to us for the day. 



Aly Connaught Cousins. 83 

We set out early in the forenoon — and 
such a forenoon ! The sky was bright as 
gold ; the heathery mountains rose purple 
clear an either side, with every mossy boul- 
der, each snowy torrent imaged clearly 
in the crystal water. " Not a feature of the 
hills was in the mirror slighted." To our 
right, as we rowed up the broad fjord, rose 
the hills of Ennis — green slopes undulating 
to peaks of rock and crests of heather ; 
to our left stretched the lower rano-e of 
the islands of Moira, on which the sea- 
clouds rest in stormy weather, but which 
were now dark and ruo[g;ed in the blindino^ 
sunlight. Before us, on the fjord itself, 
rose bright green isles and emerald promon- 
tories, with nothing living, save an occa- 
sional flight of wild duck, to disturb the 
tranquil scene. 

My uncle sat in the stern, helm in hand. 
On his right sat Aileen and Murray ; on his 
left Kathleen, Oona, and myself. Young 
Bingley had taken his position in the bow 



84 -^y Connaught Cousins. 

keenly expectant of a shot at something 
flying. 

Presently we left the village far behind, 
and came among the innumerable small 
islands which dot the fjord. On every pro- 
montory sat a heron, patiently watching the 
water, and rising leisurely out of gunshot 
as we approached. 

"Look out, Charlie," cried Murray sud- 
denly. " There's a duck ! " 

And, indeed, one of the canard species 
was approaching at lightning speed, high 
up in the air. Without turning in his 
flight he passed right over us. 

Bang ! bang ! went Charlie's gun. Bang ! 
bang ! went off" mine. 

"Sure, she's far out of range," said my 
uncle quietly, which was certainly the 
case. 

" We'll land on Mackinroy," continued 
my uncle. " A pack of grouse breeds there 
every year, and the dog will be sure to 
put them up." 



My Connaught Cotcsins. 85 

The island to which he alluded was right 
before us — a low-lying, damp piece of land, 
with some clumps of rugged heather. We 
ran the boat into a creek. Young Bingley 
jumped out, and I followed with the dog. 

'' Won't you come, Achill ? " said Charlie 
to his friend. 

" No ; I'll stay here with the girls," 
answered Murray, laughingly. 

We climbed the shore, and came out upon 
as wet and ugly a flat as could be found 
even in Ireland. We soon discovered that 
Murray was wise in not accompanying us, 
for the very first step we took inland, we 
found ourselves wading knee deep, and 
Nero, who raced on a little in advance of 
us, splashed up the water as he ran. It 
certainly did not seem a likely place for 
grouse, but there were one or two dry 
knolls of heather where a bird or two might 
be discovered. 

Suddenly, just as I floundered into a bog- 
hole, a big hare got up at my very feet ; I 



86 My Connaught Cousins. 

was too flurried to fire, and Bingley rolled 
liim over. 

" Well fired, your honor ! " cried a voice 
behind us, and ConoUy, running up, appro- 
priated pussy. 

Wheet, wheet ! up got a snipe, and went 
away zigzag before us ; we both fired, and 
missed. 

"Never mind," cried ConoUy "you've 
given him a fright, anyway ! " 

Presently the dog, who had been scamper- 
ing somewhat aimlessly, began to " draw " 
in a straight line forward. We followed 
him as fast as the wet ground would permit 
us, and soon saw, running swiftly before 
us, a number of brown birds with their 
wings trailing and their heads low^ down. 
But the retriever rushed in wildly, and 
up got, out of range, six grouse, headed 
by the old cock. 

They did not fly far, however, and we 
marked them as they alighted among deep 
heather five hundred yards away. Conolly 



Jl/y Connaught Cousins. "^^ 

liL4d up the dog, and we walked to the 
spot. The birds lay like stones. We 
walked all over the place, and were just 
o'oinor to loosen the dog-, when the old 
cock rose, and fell immediately to my 
gun. Then three of the pack got up 
together, and we secured a brace ; and 
finally, with the aid of Nero, we accounted 
for two more. 

We walked leisurely on, and for some 
time discovered nothing more, save several 
snipe, which got up out of range. Sud- 
denly Conolly, who was walking some dis- 
tance to our right, crouched down, and 
began running towards us at full speed. 

" What is it V I cried, as he came up 
panting. 

He explained rapidly that, peeping over 
at the adjoining shore, he had caught a 
glimpse of a number of ducks swimming 
close to the water's edge. By walking 
over at a point indicated by his finger, 
we were certain to get a shot. 



88 My Connaught Cousins, 

Away we went, stumbling and splashing. 
We reached a dark knoll overlooking 
the shore, and surmounted it, ready to 
fire, but we saw nothing ; and while we 
were gazing down vacantly — whirr ! whirr ! 
quack ! quack ! up got a dozen mallard 
from right under us. We fired all four 
barrels, and dropped two birds on the very 
edge of the sea ; while another, after flying 
some distance, fell like a stone into the 
water, and floated dead. 

" After him, honey ! " cried Conolly ; and 
away w^ent Nero, beating the crystal tide. He 
soon returned with the bird in his mouth. 

Flushed and victorious, we now went 
back to the yawl. After all, we had the 
laugh at Murray, who had missed some 
capital sport, but he was very busy with 
Aileen, and didn't seem to care. 

To reward our prowess, my uncle served 
out glasses all round, and then we rowed 
away again upon the water. 

There is nothing like whisky to warm 



My Connaught Cousins. 89 

a boatman's heart, and soon the rowers 
were chattering together in Irish. My 
uncle pricked up his ears, for he spoke the 
lingo like a native. 

"What's that about, Mr O'Neil?" he 
asked sharply, addressing Conolly. 

ConoUy smiled his childlike Chineeish 
smile. 

" Nothing, your honor," he replied ; 
" only the poor creature has got protec- 
tion. He's six peelers to guard him, — two 
in the kitchen, two in the parlour, and 
two at the gate, and sorra drop or nip 
can he take without them to watch over 
him ! " 

" Nonsense ; there's only one policeman 
up at the castle ! " 

" Only one, is it ! " exclaimed Conolly 
in mock surprise. " Sure that is a small 
attendance for so mighty a man ! " 

At this sally the other boatsmen were 
convulsed — Shawn almost "catching a crab " 
in the height of his merriment. 



90 My Connaught Cousins, 

" Ah, you're a bad lot," cried my uncle ; 
" O'Neil's too good for Coimaught ! " 

" Too good, your honor ! " replied Con- 
oily ; " well, then, if that's so, sorra one will 
mind when he goes to a better place ! " 

" You want me for a landlord," said my 
uncle, shaking his fist. 

" Troth then, we do ; more power to ye ! 
It's not the likes of you that could be 
turning poor boys out of house and 
home ! " 

" I'd have my rents out of you, and 
if you didn't pay, I'd evict the whole of 
you ! What do you think of that, now ? " 

It was very easy to see what they 
thought of it, for my uncle's good nature 
and generosity were notorious. They heeded 
his high words no more than the idle wind. 
Hadn't he stood up for the boys again 
and again, when it was a question between 
rich and poor ! 

" O'Neil's a poor - spirited man," said 
my uncle in an aside to me; ''he doesn't 



My Connaiight Cousins. 91 

understand the people, and I'm afraid he'll 
get into trouble." 

We were now in the narrows, and far 
away to our right we could see the 
highway. All at once, Conolly uttered an 
exclamation. 

"Look, it's himself!" 

In the far distance, trotting slowly along 
the road, was a dog-cart. A grey- haired 
gentleman in an ulster was driving, with 
a groom seated at his side, and two armed 
policemen behind him. They went very 
leisurely, and whenever they approached 
any turn in the road, or other " coign of 
vantage," the groom peeped nervously for- 
ward, holding something in his hand. 

Conolly rested on his oar, convulsed with 
silent laughter. 

" See to Sam the Sassenach, now," he 
said". " He's got the master's big pistol ; 
but he's in dread of his life." 

" Sam the Sassenach," so called by the 
tenantry, was Mr O'Neil's English groom, 



92 My Co7inaught Cousins. 

a fat and timorous importation from Bel- 
gravia, who looked upon the Irish as barba 
rians, and without an " h " to bless himsell 
with, held them and their language in the 
utmost contempt. 

" Oh, mille murther," said Con oily, " if 
your honor would only lend me the gun, 
I would like to have a shot at the houchal 
— bad cess to him ! " 

" Silence, you scoundrel ! " thundered 
my uncle ; '' how dare you talk like 
that?" 

" Sure, it's too far off for him to be 
hurted!" pleaded Conolly. "But if he 
only heard the ghost of the sound, he'd 
be off, like my mother's lame gander, 
screeching wid the fright." 

The road pursued by the dog- cart wound 
through the lonely waste ; and in the lone- 
liest part of all, on the wayside, stood 
an iron police hut, where there was a 
detachment of police day and night. Close 
to the hut the dog-cart stopped, and several 



My Co7inaMght Cousins. 93 

black figures ran over and stood talking 
with Mr O'Neil. 

It was curious to watch the change of 
expression in the boatmen's faces as they 
looked at the distant group. Their brows 
were knit, their teeth set, their whole 
look was indescribably sinister and for- 
bidding. 

" Away with ye ! " cried my uncle, and 
with one last scowl of hatred and disdain, 
they bent themselves to their oars. 

It was now scorching hot, and the wind- 
less waters of the fjord flashed back the 
splendours of the sun, like a golden mirror, 
on which our boat was crawling, like a fly. 
The hills on every side of us, the reflections 
of the hills under us, were netted in a 
throbbing haze of light. 

It was hard work rowing in such a blaze, 
and soon the men leant on their oars, pant- 
ing and perspiring. My uncle looked at 
his watch ; it was two o'clock. 

" Where shall we lunch, girls ? " he said. 



94 ^^y Connajtght Cousins. 

The trirls did not know. There were a 
thousand bright places round about, and 
one was as good as another. 

" Try Eilian na Sealgh, your honor," 
suggested Conolly. " There it lies before 
ye, wid a strip of white sand and a stream 
of fresh water, and besides that, there's a 
chance at the seals on the rocks." 

We had only to glance at the island, 
lying green and sunny, right before us, 
with the " strip of white sand " shining- 
like gold ; and ConoUy's suggestion was 
carried nem con. 

There was a mile to row ; but with the 
prospect of rest and whisky before them, 
the men pulled like galley slaves escaping 
for life. Before long we ran in on the 
golden sand, Conolly and Shawn jumped in 
knee-deep, and carried us out one by one, 
with guns, luncheon, baskets, rugs, and 
other paraphernalia. 

Oh that golden beach of Eilian na Sealgh ! 

Oh the tiny rivulet running silvern down 



]\Iy ConnaugJit Cousins. 95 

the mossy rocks, and trickling down in 
innumerable diamonds and rubies to the 
cool white fringe of the sea ! 

Oh the liehened rocks, scattered here and 
there, making dark shades for coolness, the 
silvery sand as dry as gold dust, which 
when you lifted it in your hand you found 
to be full of countless tiny shells, glittering 
with all the colours of the prism ! 

Did my reader, who has doubtless pic- 
nicked many a time on some green bank or 
scented lawn on the banks of the Thames, 
or on some heathery knoll in the Highlands, 
ever find such an oasis as I am trying to 
describe ? If so, his lines have indeed been 
cast, as mine were, in pleasant places ! 
When Aileen, with Murray's assistance, had 
spread the snowy cloth on the sands ; when 
Oona had laid out the silver luncheon 
service, knives, forks, and glasses ; and 
wdien Kathleen had produced the contents 
of her baskets, — cold pates, grouse pies, 
fowl and ham, enough to provision a garri- 



96 Aly Connaught Cousins, 

son for a week, with sherry and whisky for 
the men, and a bottle of champagne for the 
girls, — who would have thought that we 
were banqueting in hapless Ireland, with 
Land Leaguers and landlord shooters for 
attendant spirits ? 

While Conolly and the boatmen withdrew 
to a little distance and threw themselves 
down in the shelter of the rocks, waiting 
for their turn to come, we feasted royally, 
and discovered before long that the girls, 
who understood Irish appetites, had not 
made such unnecessary provision after 
all. 

Then, fished out of the basket by Kath- 
leen's deft hand, and received with a shout 
of acclamation, came some of my uncle's 
choicest cigars, which were merrily handed 
round. 

" And now," said my uncle, " let the boys 
have their turn ; while they're feeding w^e'll 
have a turn round the island, and maybe a 
shot at a seal ! " 



My Connaught Cousins, 97 

So we rose and scattered, while Kathleen 
and Oona signalled to the men. 

" Don't leave them too much whisky, 
darlings," said my uncle as he started off, 
" or we'll never get home to-night ! " 

The girls laughed and nodded, while we 
lifted up our guns and prepared to inspect 
the island. 

Somehow or other — was it by accident or 
of set purpose, I wonder — we separated on 
our tour of inspection. My uncle strolled 
off with Bingley and Kathleen, Murray dis- 
appeared with Aileen, and I, ten minutes 
after lunch was over, found myself wander- 
ing among the sweet-smelling heather with 
Oona by my side I 

That must bring the record of my day's 
adventure to a conclusion. What took place 
afterwards is not to be put on paper ! As 
for sporting after that ramble with Oona, it 
was out of the question. The rest of the 
day's sailing seemed like a dream. I was 
dimly conscious of the sun setting and the 

VOL. I. G 



98 My Connaught Cousins. 

moon beginning to rise : of the silvern 
radiance lighting bay and creek, and leaving 
the hills in ink-black shadow : of the phos- 
phorescent water splashing from the boats - 
men's oars, while ConoUy, well warmed with 
whisky, crooned ballads about the " Green 
Shamrock," and "Eory of the Hills." All 
I cared for was the touch of a little hand 
and the smile of a gentle face. At last, as 
the boat grated on the shingle, and we pre- 
pared to alight close to home, my uncle 
clapped me on the shoulder. 

"Jack, my boy, wake up," he said merrily ; 
*' youVe been wool-gathering all the day ! " 




CHAPTER VI. 




E were all very tired after that 
day's outing, and made a singu- 
larly quiet party in the drawing- 
room after dinner. My uncle indeed had 
fallen back in his chair in a sound sleep. I 
was feeling very much as if I should soon 
follow his example, when a voice in my ear 
aroused me. 

" Cousin Jack," it said, " I believe I saw 
you nodding ! Sure, now, if you sleep all 
the evening you'll spoil your night's rest, so 
come and see my study ! " 

I opened my eyes. I rose with alacrity, 
for I had recognised the voice as Oona's, 



TOO My Connaught Cousins. 

and when that voice spoke, trust me to 
follow ! Besides, the study of which I 
had heard so much, and seen absolutely 
nothing, contained certain treasures at 
which I longed to have a peep. Once 
or twice already I had expressed my 
desire to make my way up to the hal- 
lowed spot, but my entreaties had always 
been without avail. There was some work 
going on there which I must not dis- 
turb, some precious papers lying about 
which I must not examine. When Oona 
was out, the door of the virgin sanc- 
tuary was securely locked, and the key 
placed in her pocket ; when she was in, 
she was mostly locked in all alone. 

But times were changed ; the precious 
work was either finished or destroyed, and 
the room was open. 

"Patience has at length reaped its re- 
ward," I said to myself as I followed Oona 
upstairs, and found myself at last standing 
in the middle of the chamber. 



My Connaught Cousins. loi 

It was just such a room as I should have 
imagined my dreamy cousin to have ; it was 
daintily fitted up, and contained such a 
profusion of first-class writing materials as 
showed me at once that she was by no means 
an established litterateur. Go into the study 
of a literary blue-stocking, pure and simple, 
and you will find scarcely one pen fit to 
write with, scarcely a bit of decent paper on 
which to scribble your name ; but Oona had 
everything of the best, a perfect profusion 
of pens, ink, and papers, two large waste- 
paper baskets crammed full to overflowing, 
a nice collection of books, and two pretty 
reading-lamps for burning the midnight oil. 

I examined the room, and praised it. I 
endeavoured to be duly impressed by the 
silver medals and the handsome volume 
of fables which Oona had received as a 
child. 

Then I asked for the manuscripts, which, 
I must confess, aroused my curiosity. But 
they were not forthcoming. Instead, I 



I02 My Connaught Cousins, 

was told to sit down and be patient, as 
Oona wanted to talk to me. 

Nothing loth, I threw myself into an 
easy-chair, and waited. 

"Cousin Jack," she began, taking a 
chair in front of me, and looking seri- 
ously into my face, " I have written a 
story." 

" So I should have guessed," I returned, 
glancing at the profusion of writing mate- 
rials which filled the room. 

" No ; but I mean a long story, a good 
story, a story that really ought to be 
jpuhlishedy 

" My dear," I returned, laughing, " most 
authors think the same ; if they didn't, 
there wouldn't be quite so much trash 
given to the world." 

But Oona was in no joking mood. To 
my utter amazement, I saw her pale cheek 
flush, her lovely eyes fill with tears. She 
rose, and would have left the room, but 
I stopped her. 



My Connaught Cousins. 103 

** Oona ! " I cried in amazement, ** what's 
the matter ? " 

*' Nothing," was the curt reply. 

" But there is," I persisted ; " you are 
oflfended at my silly joke, and you want 
to quarrel with me, but I'm not going to 
allow it. I'll apologise. I'll do anything 
you like to show I'm sorry ; but if you 
persist in hardening your heart against me, 
I'll not stop another hour in Storport." 

As I spoke the last words, I saw ever so 
slight a shadow pass over her face ; her lip 
quivered, and the large tears that had 
gathered in her eyes began to fall ; the next 
moment she was actually sobbing on my 
shoulder. 

I tried to soothe her, but I must confess I 
was by no means displeased at these curious 
changes in her temperament. I folded my 
arms about her and caressed her forehead 
like — like a father ; and as she lay sobbing 
in my arms, with her lovely face hidden on 
my shoulder, I discovered what, but for 



104 My Connaught Cousins. 

this little incident, might have remained a 
secret for some time longer. During these 
few weeks of lazy enjoyment, while I had 
been studying the Connaught peasants and 
lounging about the Connaught bogs, I had 
fallen very deeply in love with the prettiest 
girl in the district. 

I stood like one in a dream, spell-bound 
with delight. How long I remained thus 
I don't know — time stood still for me, and 
my head whirled round. But suddenly I 
became conscious that her sobs had ceased, 
that she withdrew herself from my embrace, 
raised for a moment her blushing face to 
mine, and then turned to leave the room. 

But again I stopped her. 

" Come," I said, " tell me we are friends." 

She did not answer, but she hung her 
head, as if to hide her tear-stained face, and 
held forth her hand. I took it in both of 
mine, and drew her towards me. At first 
she resisted, then she allowed me to press 
her to my breast and kiss her. No words 



My Connaiight Cousins. 105 

were spoken, but I felt she understood, and 
I knew that she loved me. 

She beo:o:ed for a few minutes' leave of 
absence to bathe her tear-stained cheeks, 
and I let her go ; when she returned I 
thought her looking more charming than 
she had ever been before. There was a 
magical light in her eyes, a fine flush on 
her cheek, and a winning smile upon her 
pretty lips, which I tried to persuade myself 
had not been there before. She laughed, 
too, with a sort of hysterical gladness ; 
there was a tremor in her voice, and I 
could not get her to look straight at me, 
but when I drew my chair close to the one 
in which she sat, and took her hand in 
mine, she did not draw it away. 

I had forgotten all about the story, but 
Oona had not ; to my amazement she took 
up the subject, which had almost caused us 
to quarrel, in nervous haste. 

" Cousin Jack," she said, " don't you 
really want to hear about my story ? " 



io6 My Connaught Cousins. 

" Of course I do," I returned. " I have 
been waiting all this time to hear about it. 
But Oona, why not call me ' Jack,' without 
the ' cousin ' ? " 

" You would like it better ? " 

'' Much better." 

*' Very well, then ; if you will listen 
patiently I will try." 

I was perfectly willing to listen so long 
as I could keep my seat by her side, and 
hold her warm little hand in mine. So as 
we sat thus, Oona told me about the story 
— that wonderful story upon which all her 
hopes of future greatness were evidently 
based. The narrative, she said, w^as true 
— that is to say, it was an exact record 
of events which had actually taken place at 
Kildare Castle some half a century ago. 
Kildare, she proceeded to explain, was a 
most romantic spot, situated about twelve 
Irish miles from Storport. Oona, attended 
by either ConoUy or Shawn, had ridden 
thither again and again, was well acquainted 



My Connaught Cousins. 107 

with the old cauliagh who lived in the 
keep and had charge of the ruin ; conse- 
quently she had been shown over it, not 
once but many times, had inspected every 
relic extant, and had heard the history of 
a wildly improbable and most unfortunate 
love affair which had happened to the Ross 
family that very generation. 

" It is this story," continued Oona, " which 
I have written in my own way, and which I 
want you to read. But sit still ; I'll get 
you the manuscript presently. I have some- 
thing more to tell you first." 

" Go on, my darling ; I am all attention." 
" Well, before you came — that is to say, 
when you wrote to say that you would come 
— we girls got much more interested in you 
than we had been before, and we talked a 
great deal about you. After a good many 
discussions we settled in our minds what 
you must be like, and then as we had pro- 
mised papa to do our best to amuse you, we 
began to consider how we could best keep 



io8 My Connaught Cousins. 

our promise. But now we all disagreed : 
one thought you would like one thing, and 
one another, and we began to despair of 
coming to any conclusion, when Kathleen 
suggested a plan which we all agreed to. 
She said that, as we had so many ideas of 
amusing you, you ought to get the benefit 
of them all ; that we ought each to take a 
day, to be called by the name of the one 
who chose it, and during that day the girl 
whose name it bore would undertake all the 
arrangements ; that, at the end of the visit, 
you were to be made to say which day you 
had enjoyed the most — Kathleen's day, 
Aileen's day, Nora's day, my day, Biddy's 
day, or Amy's day. Well, what do you 
think of it \ " 

" What do I think of it ? Why, I think 
it's far and away the best thing I've 
heard since I came to Storport. But I 
can't make out why I was never told of it 
before." 

'* Why," said Oona, looking at me from 



My Connaught Cousins. 109 

head to foot, and giving her half shy smile, 
" you would have heard of it soon enough 
if you had been stout and middle-aged like 
papa. We were all agreed upon one point 
— that you would be too short in the breath 
to bear the fntigue of much walking; on the 
bogs. We thought you would want to be 
driven about sight-seeing, and entertained 
in that way ; but when we found how dif- 
ferent you w^ere, we thought you wouldn't 
want us to amuse you. But the other day, 
when I had just finished my story, I thought 
I would tell you of it, because I wanted to 
take my day." 

" Good fairy number one !" I said. " Well, 
Oona, when would you like the day to be ? 
and what would you like to do ? I should 
dearly love to hear my little girl's idea of 
the best way of entertaining me even for 
twenty-four hours ! " 

" But if you don't like the idea ? " 

'' Then I'll say so ! " 

*' Will you really ? Then you shall 



1 lo My Connaught Cousins. 

hear. I am afraid it is rather selfish," con- 
tinued Oona, '* but after all you may enjoy 
it. . . . Well, I should like the day to be to- 
morrow. I should like to make up a party, 
all the girls, papa, and you, and go for a 
day's excursion over to Kildare. Some of 
us would ride and some would drive. We 
could see the old castle and the village, take 
our luncheon with us, and get back in time 
for dinner in the evening, then after dinner 
I should like you to read my story. I 
think you would find it much more in- 
teresting after you had seen the place where 
the scene is laid." 

The plan delighted me, and I said so to 
Oona s infinite satisfaction ; one thing only 
I stipulated for, — that I was to be allowed to 
read the story alone, after I had retired for 
the night. 

Having thus arranged matters to our 
mutual satisfaction, we descended to the 
drawing-room, where tea was awaiting us. 
Upon Oona making her plans known, every 



Aly Connatight Cousins. 1 1 1 

body seconded them, and without any 
demur it was agreed that the next day 
was to be christened 

Oona's Day. 

The next morning I rose early, half-an- 
hour before my usual time, but upon de- 
scending the stairs I found that prepara- 
tions for the day's amusement were already 
in hand. Both Conolly and Shawn, bereft 
of both coat and waistcoat, were working 
with a will for once in their lives. Conolly 
was in the stable preparing the horses ; 
Shawn was rubbing up the phaeton, and 
packing into it the luncheon baskets, well 
filled by Kate. There was also a large 
basket under Oona's special charge; it was 
filled with numerous packages of tea, sugar, 
tobacco, and little flasks of whisky, to be 
distributed amongst Kate's pensioners in 
the little village of Kildare. Kate had 
intended to be one of the party, but fate 



1 1 2 My Connatight Cousins. 

was against her. Amy, who for some days 
had been suffering with a decaying tooth, 
rose that morning with a swelled face, and 
was crying with the intense pain, so Kate 
sent off Shawn's brother Mickie for Dr 
Maguire, and gave up her day's outing to 
attend to her sister at home. 

By eight o'clock we were all assembled 
round the breakfast-table ready dressed for 
the day. The four girls wore riding-habits. 
Oona, who had donned hers for the first 
time since I came to Storport, looked prettier 
than I had ever seen her, and was respon- 
sible for the exceedingly meagre breakfast I 
took. Whether or not she was conscious of 
this I cannot say, — she scarcely looked my 
way at all, and took no notice whatever of 
me, and she succeeded in diverting general 
attention from me, at the expense of Aileen, 
whom she joked incessantly about Murray's 
particular attentions on the day before. In 
the middle of breakfast she left the table 
and went over to Amy, who sat by the fire 



My Connatight Cousins. 1 1 3 

looking the picture of misery, with her head 
wrapped up in flannel. 

Breakfast over, we all made a move. 

" Now, girls," cried my uncle, *' how are 
you going to place yourselves, for, sure 
enough, 'tis time we were started ? Alley, 
will you ride ? Jack, my boy, will you 
make a trial of Lucy ? She's fresh after 
being stabled for a couple of days, and 
will do herself credit." 

" Oh, papa, don't give Jack Lucy this 
morning ! " cried Oona ; then remembering 
herself, she came to a sudden and confused 
stop. 

Lucy was my uncle's riding mare, a 
handsome thorough-bred, famous for bolt- 
ing, and shying when ridden by a stranger, 
but as docile as a lamb beneath her master's 
hand. When she first came into the 
family, my uncle had intended her for a 
birthday present for one of the girls ; in 
the nick of time, however, her infirmities 
were discovered. My uncle, finding her 
VOL. I. H 



1 1 4 My ConnaugJit Cousins. 

quiet beneath his hand, decided to keep 
her for his own use, and forbade the girls 
to ride her. No sooner had the edict gone 
forth than Aileen, who was a wiki, fearless 
horsewoman, was seized with a desire to 
have a canter on Lucy's back. 

One day, when she and Nora were rid- 
ing, they came upon Conolly, who was 
exercising the mare. The girls rode up to 
him, and Aileen, after a deal of persuasion, 
succeeded in inducing him to change the 
saddles, placing her ow^n on Lucy's back, 
and his upon the horse on which she sat. 

This done, Aileen, her eyes sparkling 
with delight, placed her foot in Conolly's 
hand, and leapt lightly into the saddle. 
Alas ! no sooner was she fairly seated, and 
with the reins in her hand, than Lucy 
reared, plunged, turned round and round, 
and finally bolted across country at light- 
ning speed. On she went, her neck sw^ell- 
ing, her eyes glaring, and foam flying from 
her mouth, — over ditches and stone walls, 



My Connaitght Cousins. i r 5 

and across dangerous stretches of bog, — 
while Aileen, almost paralysed with fright, 
sat helpless in the saddle. 

Being a good horsewoman, she managed 
to keep her seat until the mare galloped 
up the broad drive to Ballyshanrany, and 
paused before her stable door. Then Aileen 
fainted away. 

From that day forth the girls regarded 
Lucy with positive terror ; it was the re- 
membrance of this which had made Oona's 
cheeks turn pale when her father proposed I 
should ride the mare. 

Lucy was certainly very fresh that morn- 
iug ; she pawed the gravel, champed her 
bit, tossed her head, and looked ready for 
a race indeed. Not being an over-brilliant 
rider, I firmly refused my uncle's invitation 
to mount the mare, and he took her himself. 
Aileen and Nora sprang into their saddles, 
and the phaeton, drawn by a couple of 
sturdy ponies, was left for Biddy, Oona, 
and myself. 



1 1 6 My Coiinmtght Cotisins. 

All the horses were tolerably fresh, and 
we started off at a spanking pace, the 
riders galloping on ahead, and Oona 
guiding her ponies with a wonderfully 
steady hand. For some distance the road 
which we traversed was the one which I 
had travelled on first coming to Storport, 
a dreary road enough, with flat stretches 
of bogland on either side of us, backed in 
the far distance by ranges of desolate-look- 
ing hills. 

The weather had changed too, for the 
sun had disappeared behind banks of threat- 
ening clouds, and the usual mist was driving 
about like smoke. 

We had left the village far behind, and 
were passing through a country as desolate 
looking as the prairies. Here and there 
we picked out a woman working diligently 
on the bog, sometimes we passed a donkey 
trudging sleepily along with its turf-laden 
panniers, and driven by a barefooted little 
urchin; but that was all. Presently the 



My Connmight Cousins. 1 1 7 

riders slackened their speed. Sliawn, who 
was seated in the rumble behind the carriage, 
spoke rapidly to Oona in the Irish tongue. 
She immediately pulled the ponies up. 

" We are near the river," she said, ad- 
dressing me, "and Shawn thinks you 
may find a few ducks lying under the 
bank. You needn't go unless you like ; 
you'll have to pass over some nasty 
ground before you get a shot." 

We had come to a standstill. Shawn 
had leapt from his seat, and was passing 
with immense strides over the bogiand 
which lay on our right. The riders had 
fallen back, and my uncle, who was now 
close to the phaeton, called out, — 

*' Jack, my boy, out with your gun 
and away with you, for you are pretty 
sure of a duck. Stop a bit, I'll go along 
with you. Timlin, ye thief, come and 
hold Lucy, and see you hold her well." 

So saying, he slipped from the saddle, 
threw the bridle to a rago-ed urchin who 



1 1 8 My Connaugkt Cousins. 

had been at work cutting turf on the 
bog, and who came up immediately to 
my uncle's call, possessed himself of his 
gun, which had been packed away in the 
phaeton, and put some cartridges in his 
pocket. I hastened to follow his example, and 
we started off, shaping our course according 
to the signs we received from Shawn. 

The ground on which our course lay 
was a black stretch of bogland, miry 
and spongy to the tread, interspread 
with tussocks of hard earth and stunted 
heather, so that our walk consisted of a 
series of jumps from one to another of 
these points of vantage. For a time we 
went along in this fashion, I keeping in 
the wake of my uncle, who, being well 
accustomed to that sort of thing, was 
bounding along like a boy. Presently, 
finding the muscles of my legs getting 
painful, and my breath about to leave 
me, I gazed around, and perceived what 
I believed a haven of rest, a broad piece 



My Connaught Cousins, 1 1 9 

of land, green, fresh, and fair, lying exactly 
between Shawn and me. 

I looked round, intending to point this 
out to my uncle, but he was already far 
on ahead, and keeping still to the tussocks 
which skirted this fresh, green plain. I 
dared not call aloud to him, for fear of 
disturbing the ducks, so I determined to 
let him go on and take advantage myself 
of the green sward. 

I stepped upon it, heedless of the wild 
antics indulged in by Shawn, and found it 
decidedly moist, but after all, I mentally 
declared, an improvement on the tussocks. 
I had got about half-way over when my 
progress was arrested by loud cries, and 
looking round I perceived that both my 
uncle and Shawn were making the most 
violent gestures intended for my edification. 
Imagining that they were urging me on to 
greater speed, I quickened my footsteps, 
when all of a sudden I found that the earth 
had literally opened and swallowed me. 



120 My ConnaMght Cotisins. 

Yes, there I was, buried up to the arm- 
pits, and only saved from entire suffocation 
by the gun, which, by a lucky accident, 
rested on a couple of tussocks, and aflforded 
me some support. 

I was in and utterly helpless ; my legs and 
body were fast becoming frozen with the 
cold contact of mire, and I felt it was suck- 
ing me down. 

" Lie quiet, yer honor, lie quiet," called 
Shawn, heedless now of ducks or geese either ; 
" don't move, but keep a firm hold of the 
gun." 

I did as he suggested, and despite the 
deathly suction all around me, I managed 
to keep myself up, while Shawn and my 
uncle, keeping to the tussocks still, came up 
to within half-a-dozen yards of me. Then 
Shawn, who had taken from his waist certain 
coils of rope, which served him as braces, 
made a large noose, and threw it towards 
me. I managed with considerable difficulty 
to slip my arms through it. When this was 



Aly ConnaitgJu Cottsins, 1 2 1 

done, my imele and Shawn laid hold 
of the other end, and they drew me out 
'* pop " like a cork from a bottle. When 
the operation was over, and I stood upon a 
tussock safe and sound, my condition may 
be better imagined than described. I felt 
as if the lower part of my body was made 
of mud and ice, but both my uncle and 
Shawn were perspiring furiously. 

" Keep to the tussocks in future, Jack !" 
said my uncle ; '' 'tis the only foothold you 
can trust ; besides, your next adventure of 
the kind may not end so well. I once had 
a valuable mare in the same j)light, and as 
we couldn't get the poor beast out, we had 
to shoot her." 

He then produced the flask, which he 
always carried in his breast-pocket of his 
shooting jacket, and gave us whisky all 
round. Knowing by this time that the 
ducks must have been frightened into the 
next county, we started for the road. As 
both the barrels of my gun were clogged 



122 My Connaught Cousins. 

with filth, I handed it to Shawn, but my 
uncle managed to pick up a couple of soli- 
tary snipe which rose at his very feet. 

When we reached the road we found the 
girls, who had watched the adventure, in a 
state of great excitement. They had all 
changed places too. Aileen and Nora were 
seated in the phaeton. Oona and Biddy 
had manao;ed somehow to get into the 
saddles, and they one and all insisted that 
I must mount Lucy. Oona's fear of the 
mare seemed to me to have disappeared, 
but I afterwards discovered that she had 
mounted Jack with some wild idea of being 
at hand to preserve me from danger if Lucy 
should prove refractory. 

So we started off again, and after a pre- 
liminary canter, during which I found Lucy 
the very queen of horse-flesh, I felt none the 
worse of my adventure. A warm glow was 
stealing all over me. I bent forward in my 
saddle, and the three horses, keeping well 
abreast, galloped merrily along the road. 



Aly Comiaught Cousins. 123 

In this manner we entered the village of 
Kildare. 

The village proper consisted of a mere 
handful of huts, which looked as if they 
had been thrown up at random on the bog, 
just as moles throw up their tiny mounds of 
earth. They seemed to me to resemble the 
cabins inhabited by the Esquimaux, lying 
low, built of mud, and thatched with turf 
sods. Here and there at the doors an old 
woman was squatting on her haunches, 
smoking a black pipe, or two or three naked 
urchins w^ere rolling in the sunlight. 

I took one glance at the village, then I 
turned to Oona, who was pointing with her 
hand, — 

" Look, Jack, look ! " she said, " that is 
Kildare Castle." 

The ruins of the old castle stood on a low, 
green promontory, or rather an isthmus, 
connected by a narrow neck of sand with the 
adjoining land. Part of it was roofless and 
uninhabited, save by a noisy flock of jack- 



1 24 My Connaught Cottsins. 

daws ; but attached to the ruin was a 
low, modern-looking building, dilapidated 
enough, but still tolerably habitable. On 
the green swards in front large numbers of 
tame geese were feeding. Beyond stretched 
the estuary of the sea, broken into crisp 
lio^ht waves, and shifting; its colours like a 
sword blade in the sun. 

I had just finished my survey w^hen the 
phaeton drove up, and there began a general 
discussion as to what we must all do. Of 
course it went without saying that Oona 
and I must inspect the castle, and Biddy 
volunteered to join us. My uncle preferred 
a couple of hours on the moor, while Aileen 
and Nora volunteered to distribute Kath- 
leen s gifts, and afterwards to lay out the 
lunch, so as to have everything ready for a 
pleasant meal by the time we were all 
re-assembled. My uncle therefore took his 
gun and walked oflf, promising to be back 
at the hour fixed for lunch, while the rest 
of us pushed on across the isthmus to stable 



My Connaztght Cousins. 125 

the horses somewhere among the ruined 
castle walls. 

Our progress was somewhat slow, for the 
road was as neglected as the castle itself. 
It was full of deep ruts, covered with 
stones, and overgrown with rank weeds and 
grass ; but we crossed the isthmus in safety, 
and leavino; the modern building on one 
side, passed under a ruined archway, covered 
with rank moss and trailing ivy leaves. 
We found ourselves in an old grass-paven 
courtyard, at the further end of which 
was an open door leading to the castle 
tower. 

Leaving our horses to graze in the court- 
yard, we climbed the winding stairs of the 
tower, and soon found ourselves high up 
among the ruins. Below us lay the interior 
of the old building — roofless, grass-paven, 
and strewn with stones, surrounded on every 
side by ruined walls, broken arches, and 
fragments of masonry. The jackdaws ros(/ 
sr-reaminof over our heads, and hoven-il 



126 My ConnaugJit Coushis, 

against the blue sky. Right below us lay 
the sea, breaking against the black rocks of 
the promontory. 

From point to point we crept up mould- 
ering stairs, which suddenly ceased in 
mid-air, into dark holes and corners, that 
had once been rooms, down right under 
the ruins, where there was actually a real 
" dungeon." We had no guide, and thanked 
Heaven for that escape ; but Oona acted in- 
formally as cicerone^ without boring us with 
irrational history and impossible legends, 
till our tour of merry inspection came to 
an end. 

We had lingered so long a time in the ruin, 
looking over the relics of the past, and dis- 
cussing Oona's story, that when we came 
down we found the girls and my uncle 
actually awaiting lunch. A goodly-sized 
wooden table had been carried from the 
neighbouring building into the courtyard, 
and upon this the lunch was spread — all 
sorts of cakes and dainties, baked by Kath- 



My Connaught Cousins. 1 2 7 

leen's deft hand, with some wine and whisky 
to wash them down. By this time our 
arrival had become known, and the popula- 
tion of the villaoe seemed to be turnino; 
out to welcome us. 

Dozens of ragged gorsoons, looking like 
little savages, with unkempt heads and bare 
feet, clustered round the open gateway, or 
glared through every loophole within reach, 
while the cauliaghs, young colleens, and 
men of the village came up to welcome 
" his honour " and the " young ladies — 
God bless them ! " 

With their assistance i^lley and Nora 
managed to empty the baskets which had 
been sent by Kate. 

We bad a capital lunch — feeling very 
romantic all the while, with the ruined 
walls about us, and the open sky above us. 

We were waited on by Shawn and the 
withered-looking old cauliagh who kept 
the castle. When it was over, we lit up 
our cigars and strolled out upon the pro- 



128 JMy Coiinatight Cotisiits. 

naontory, leaving a goodly proportion of 
food and wine to be distributed at Shawn's 
discretion. 

It was getting on in the afternoon, and 
as the day waned, the weather grew^ brighter. 
The sun was shining now from a cloudless 
sky, and w^hen I looked back I thought the 
village of Kildare as picturesque a portion 
of wild Connaught as I had seen, and the 
old castle, in whose shadow I was standing, 
looked the most charming of all. For the 
sun sparkled amidst its ivy-leaves, and re- 
vivified the crumbling walls, while below it 
the sea w^ashed with ceaseless music. 

" Look," said Oona, laying her hand upon 
my arm, and pointing. 

Some yards distant, and right under the 
ruins, there lay an old well, reached by a 
few broken steps. It seemed desolate and 
disused, but, looking down, I saw the w^ater 
black and cool. 

"Do you know," whispered Oona, **the 
people here say that, nt some seasons of the 



My Connaitght Cousins. 129 

year, the water down there is red ! Two 
brothers fought there, and the murdered 
body of one was found floating in the well ! " 

" Have you got that in the story ? " 

" Oh, don't laugh ! " said Oona. '' These 
terrible things are true ! " 

We took a short stroll along the water's 
edge, talking of this and other superstitions. 
When we got back to the castle, we found 
that everything was in readiness for our 
departure, — the horses were saddled, the 
ponies harnessed, the phaeton neatly packed 
ao'ain. The crowd around the castle walls 
had increased ; its members were evidently 
waiting to give us a wild cheer as we started. 
Again the discussion began as to how we 
must dispose ourselves, when Oona spoke. 

" We will start just as we did this morn- 
ing," she said, " and when we're halfway 
we'll - change. You three will take the 
phaeton, and we'll have the horses for the 
last canter home — eh, Jack ? " 

But I shook my head. 

VOL. I. I 



130 My Connaught Cousms, 

" Won't do at all," I said. " We will 
take the horses in starting, and when weVe 
cantered halfway, you must be content to 
sit quietly in the phaeton, Oona, and I'll 
drive the ponies home ! " 

I had reflected that during the latter half 
of our return journey the earth would be 
plunged in that dim uncertain light which 
makes the most prosaic soul romantic — that 
during this time I should love to be seated 
in the phaeton with Oona nestling on the 
rugs by my side, and probably her little 
hand lying warm and tremulous on mine. 

My wishes carried the day, and during 
the latter half of that return journey I felt 
like a man entranced. When I pulled up 
the ponies at the door of the Lodge, and 
saw Kate standing on the threshold with 
a candle in her hand, I startled as one 
awakening from a dream. I extricated 
Oona from her rugs, and lifted her out, 
and as I did so I saw that her eyes were 
sparkling with a dreamy kind of joy, and 



My Connaught Cousins, 131 

her cheeks were suffused with love's own 
red. 

I followed Kate into the Lodo-e, and, in 
answer to her inquiry, assured her it had 
been the happiest day I had ever spent in 
my life. 

I went to bed very early that night, but 
when once I was comfortably settled on my 
pillows I took out Oona's manuscript, and 
proceeded to read her story. 

Here it is. 



How the wind blew ! How the rain 
poured ! The substantial walls of Kildare 
Castle seemed to be shaken to their founda- 
tions, and above the dreary moaning of 
the wind came the ceaseless patter of 
the rain. 

" The Lord preserve us ! what a night," 
said Bridget O'Rook, as she threw a liberal 
supply of turf on the blazing kitchen fire ; 



132 My Connaught Cousins. 

" and as if it wasn't bad enough to listen to 
the wind and the rain, there's the whole of 
ye sitting like taisches. It's a poor place is 
Kildare Castle when Master Conn is away ! 
Andy Beg, ye lazy loon ye ! if ye've any life 
in ye, play us a tune ; and if ye cannot dance 
patter -a- jpie, or sing a song, or tell a tale. 
Owen More, ye might as well have stayed 
in yer own house to-night ! " 

" I'll play ye a tune, an' welcome, Bridget, 
machree'' said the ragged -looking ruffian 
addressed, as he polished his tin-whistle on 
his ragged coat-sleeve ; " only I was think- 
ing that maybe the master wouldn't be so 
well plased to hear us to-night." 

" And why not, pray ? " sharply returned 
Bridget. " Isn't it the young master who 
left us two years ago to go to America that 
we're ex pecting home ; and hasn't Master 
Conn gone to fetch home one that we shall 
all be proud of ? This night should be a 
night of rejoicing, Owen Mare ! " 

" And that's true enough, Mistress Bridget. 



My Connaiight Cousins. 133 

But, in troth, I'm hoping the young master 
won't come to-uight. God help them that 
this wailing wind blows home ! " 

With eyes staring wide in astonishment, 
and a frown of resentment on her brow, 
Bridget was about to reply, when the kitchen- 
door suddenly opened, and another figure 
crept in. The rain beat in behind the new- 
comer, and the fierce gusts of wind scattered 
the white ashes on the hearth ; but the door 
was quickly banged to, and the new-comer 
unslung a canvas bag which was buckled 
around his rain - drenched shoulders, and 
threw it on to the kitchen table. 

" No letters to-night, Mistress Bridget, 
but good news!" he said. ''The cutter, 
wid the young mashter on board, is in the 
shelter of Mackinray, and by this time the 
young mashter has landed I " 

'^Is that true, Shamus O'Neil ? " 

" Sure enough. I was crossing the sands 
wid the letters, and when I saw the light, 
and knew well enough what it was, I just 



134 ^y Conjiaught Cousins, 

gave the word to the boys that were on the 
shore, and they took the ferry-boat out, and 
then they gave one shout to tell me that the 
young mashter was landing ! " 

Not a word answered Bridget ; but she 
left the kitchen, tripped nimbly along the 
hall, and gently opened the library door. 

" Mr Antony is come, yer honour," she 
said, to an old gentleman who sat reading 
by the fire. Her words were literally true. 
No sooner had she uttered them than a wild 
banging and shouting was heard without, 
and, on the hall-door being thrown oj)en, a 
dark figure strode in. 

The heavy gust of wind which blew him 
across the threshold was so confusing that 
none could see his face ; but Bridget, recog- 
nising the deformed figure wrapped in the 
heavy ulster, and wearing a dri^^ping wide- 
awake hat, said, as she hastily stepped back 
out of the region of the wind and rain, — 

*' Yer welcome, Mr Antony ! " 

" It's a wild night I've brought with me, 



My Connaught Cousins. 135 

Bridget," returned Antony Eoss. " Pile up 
the kitchen fire, give the skipper some supper, 
and the boys a glass all round, for we're 
drenched to the skin." Then passing into 
the library, and taking his father's hand, he 
asked quickly, — 

'' Is Alma here ? " 

" Miss Clifford ? " returned the old man, 
who still held the hand of his drenched and 
storm - tossed son. " No, she's not here, 
Antony. What madcap freak made you 
weather the storm to-night % " 

The young man laughed. 

" I'm not sugar to be blown away by a 
puff of wind, or melted with a little rain. 
The skipper wanted to turn tail when the 
storm began, but I determined to push 
on. I thought Alma would be here, and 
I wanted to be able to welcome her 
home." 

The old man smiled. 

** If you are not sugar, Antony, my boy, 
you're soft enough about Miss Clifford. But 



136 My Connaught Cousins, 

put your mind at rest about lier to-night ; 
she's safe with Conn ! " 

In a moment, as the old man mentioned 
that name, he saw the features of his son 
contract as with acute pain, the sun-tanned 
cheek turned white as death, the powerful 
hands grew cold and tremulous. 

" Conn ! " he echoed faintly ; " has lie 
gone to her?" 

" Yes, he has gone," returned the old man 
quickly, as he narrowly watched the face of 
his son. *' The poor child was naturally 
unhinged by her father's sudden death, and 
could not travel so far alone ; and as Conn 
was at home, and as he is soon to be her 
brother, why what could I do but send him 
to bring her here ? " 

The old man paused, but still his son said 
nothing. The contraction of agony had 
left his face, but still his cheeks w^ere pale, 
his hands cold and clammy. 

" Antony," said the old man, placing his 
trembling hand on his son's broad shoulder, 



My Coimaught Cousins. 137 

'* ever since you left this house two years 
ago, I have prayed nightly to God that the 
bitterness might be taken from your heart 
erey ou came back again — yes, prayed that 
you two might learn to love one another, and 
that the curse of Cain which was for ever over- 
hanorino; our house mig-ht at leno;th be cleared 
away. My boy, don't let me think that I have 
prayed in vain ! For God's sake, let me see 
you like brothers for once ; let me know that 
you can love one another before I die ! " 

" I love Conn f " repeated the young man 
dreamily, wiping the cold perspiration which 
had orathered on his brow. " I have tried 

o 

not to hate him, father, but what cause have 
I to love him ? " 

" He is your brother ! " 

" Yes, he is my brother ; and all his life 
his aim has been to blacken the earth for 
me. He made me what I am. If I made 
a friend, he stepped in and robbed me of 
that friend. He knew I had your affection, 
— he tried to alienate that ; if I won any 



138 My Connaught Cousins. 

love, he tore it from me ; he has been to me 
like the blight that passes over the earth, 
and withers ujJ the leaves and flowers ; and 
yet, father, if he leaves me Alma Clifi*ord, 
you shall not have prayed in vain ! I shall 
be able to put my hand in his and say, ' Conn, 
acushla ! henceforth let us be brothers. I 
forgive you all ! '" 

With a wild, nervous, tremulous clasp, he 
pressed the hand which lay in his ; then he 
turned hurriedly, and left the room. He 
passed along the dimly-lighted hall, up the 
old oak stairs, and into a spacious old- 
fashioned chamber, where a turf fire was 
smouldering on the hearth. He threw off 
his saturated overcoat, sank into a chair 
which was drawn up beside the fire, thrust 
his hand into his breast, and drew forth a 
picture. A miniature, painted in softly tinted 
colours, and representing the head of a lovely 
girl. The face was turned upward, revealing 
the soft outline of throat and bust, and deli- 
cately tinted cheeks set in a wealth of golden 



My Connaught Cousins. 139 

hair. The soft red lips were smiling, the 
lustrous eyes, shaded with slumbrous lids 
and long dark lashes, were gazing full into 
the dark silent face whicli bent above. All 
round the room the wind wailed, and upon 
the windows rattled the heavy drops of rain ; 
throuo-h the halls of the old castle the faint 
sounds of music were wafted, mingled with 
the merry laughter of boys and girls. 

Seen in the dim light of the room, Antony 
Ross looked handsome enough ; but his head 
was set low down behind his shoulders, bis 
breast protruded, and his back had a decided 
hump. This defect of his figure had told 
upon his health, so that he was strangely 
pale for a man accustomed to face sun and 
wind in all weathers. 

Scarcely hearing, and utterly indifferent, 
the young master of the old house sat alone 
gazing at the picture in his hand. Presently 
his head bent down lower, and with burning 
lips he kissed the cold shining glass. 

**' My Alma ! " he murmured. '' My hope, 



140 My Co7inaught Cottsins. 

my love, my life, — yes, with you by my 
side I could forgive him ; but if he came 
between you and me, I think that I should 
kill him ! " 



11. 



While the eyes of the picture were 
gazing into the dark face of the man w^ho 
sat alone in the lonely room, the eyes of 
the original of that picture were low^ered 
before the gaze of another man. Miss 
Clifford and her escort Conn Eoss having 
been overtaken by the storm which raged 
a whole day and night along the north-west 
coast, had been compelled to break their 
journey, and seek shelter in a village which 
lay some twenty miles from Kildare Castle. 
When, therefore, the shadows of night fell 
upon the land, when the wind was moan- 
ing, the rain pouring, the sea raging, she 
sat in warmth and comfort reclininfj list- 
lessly in an easy-chair, her companion by 
her side. 



Illy Connaicght Cousins. 141 

Conn was a young man of about two- 
and-twenty, tall and shapely, witli broad 
powerful shoulders and a finely moulded 
head and face. His features were Grecian 
in outline, his cheeks faintly tanned with 
the sun ; a fair moustache shaded his 
mouth, and his head was covered with a 
wealth of nut-brown hair. He had so often 
heard that he was the handsomest fellow 
in Connauo^ht that he had at leno;th ac- 
cepted the belief that, take him all in all, 
there were few to approach him ; hence, 
therefore, that air of perfect self-confidence 
and calm self-contentment, which in many 
other men would have been an ofi"3nce. 
In Conn, however, there was such an air of 
simple manliness and bonhomie as to disarm 
all severity, and win afi'ection for him 
wherever he went. 

-Alma Clifi*ord sat in her chair, ostensibly 
holding her red-slippered feet before the 
blaze of the fire, but covertly studying the 
face of her companion. They had been 



142 My Connaught Cousins. 

silent for some time ; suddenly she 
spoke, — 

" Do you know, Mr Eoss, when I first 
saw you I thought you were Antony ! " 

He looked up quickly, then he threw 
back his head and laughed gaily. 

'* You don't say so ! " he exclaimed ; and 
at his merriment the girl's face fell. 

" Well," she returned, more tartly, 
" there was nothing in that to make you 
laugh so ! He is your brother, and I think 
you all resemble each other ! " 

Conn did not reply this time. At this bold 
assertion both his merriment and his speech 
seemed to have got a sudden check. 

" When I saw him last," continued the 
girl, " I was certainly only ten years old, 
and at that age one does not notice much, 
but it seems to me, from what I remember 
of him, that he must be very like you." 

Again she glanced half eagerly towards 
him, but his head was turned away and he 
said nothing. 



My Connatig'ht Cousins, 143 

"Well, cim I not right?" she contmuod 
impatiently, for there was something in his 
manner which annoyed her ; " are you not 
considered like each other ? " 

He rose abruptly, walked up and down 
the room, with his face still averted, and 
replied, — 

" Well, yes, now you mention it, I sup- 
pose we are." 

Presently he ceased walking, drew his 
chair up beside her, and asked, bending low 
and looking into her face, — 

" Well, Alma, are you satisfied ? " 
" Yes," she answered dreamily. 
He smiled, but her face remained grave. 
At that moment her gaze was riveted on 
the past, and she saw standing before her 
a lad w^ith flashing dark eyes and bright 
handsome face, who said, " Good-bye, Alma, 
good-bye ; you are my little sweetheart, 
remember, and when I am a man I shall 
come and marry you." How she had loved 
that child, and thouuh she had not seen 



144 ^-^y Connaught Cousins. 

liim for eight long, weary years, how the 
memory of that h\st parting still made her 
heart beat. 

It was the memory of that time which 
had made her so pliant to her father's 
wishes, so ready, nay, almost eager to give 
the promise which he asked. 

** Alma, my darling," he had said, " pro- 
mise me that, when I am laid to rest, you 
will travel back to Ireland and marry young 
Antony Eoss." 

And Alma, bending low and slipping 
her hand into his, had whispered, — 

" Dear father, I promise ! " And with 
those words ringing in his ears, he uttered 
a sigh, and passed away. 

A few days later, when Colonel Clifford 
was laid to rest, his will was opened, and 
Alma found herself a tolerably rich woman. 
One half of his large fortune was left to 
her unconditionally, the other half " to 
Antony Eoss, to pass into his possession 
on the day of his marriage with my be- 



My Connaiight Cousins, 145 

loved daughter Alma. If tlie marriage 
does not take place, the whole to remain 
the property of Alma alone." 

How Alma had smiled when she heard 
that, for she said to herself, — " Antony 
is safe." 

She had seen fine faces, had many hand- 
some wooers in her life, but her heart had 
remained faithful to her boy lover. Though 
she had not seen him for so long, letters 
had come telling her of his struggles, his 
hopes and fears, and always ending with 
a picture of the bright future which they 
would one day share together. " My 
Alma," he wrote only a short time before, 
*' my own bright, beautiful girl, you are the 
one golden thread which binds me to this 
world. You are my salvation ; without 
the knowledge of your truth and love, 
life would be a blank to me — I should 
think it best to lie down and die ! " And 
yet, though he loved her so, he had never 

VOL. I. K 



146 My Connaught Cousins. 

once, during all those years, expressed a 
wish to look upon her face. 

"Have you never thought it strange 
that Antony shouldn't have come to see 
you all these years ? " 

The voice that was speaking so close to 
her, uttering, as it were, her thoughts 
aloud, startled her. She flushed slightly, 
then, after a while, answered composedly 
enough. 

" Yes, I have sometimes thought it 
curious ; but again, when I have reflected, 
my suspicions have seemed so unjust that 
I have crushed them away. His love for 
me has not died ; indeed I think that 
every year it has grown stronger, and 
since that is so, why, I have nothing 
to fear." 

Conn raised his eyes and looked at the 
lovely face which was turned towards the 
fire, and lit by the faint fire-glow. 

It was the very counterpart of the pic- 
ture. The rounded cheek, the delicately 



My Connaught Cousins. 147 

curved mouth and nostril, the large, lus- 
trous violet eyes, shaded by black lashes. 
The crape bands which had bound her hair 
were loosened, and the o-litterino- threads 
of hair fell in a shimmering veil about her 
shoulders, brightening and darkening in 
the faint fire-light. As the young man 
gazed at her, a perplexed expression crossed 
his countenance. 

*' By the way, have you got a portrait 
of Antony ? " he asked suddenly. 

"No!" 

"And you have never seen him since 
you were ten years old ? " 

" Have I not told you so ? " 

" But he has surely seen you ? " 

" I think not. I sent him a painted 
miniature of myself, and he wrote it was 
just what he had imagined me to be. It 
was -the same, yet not the same — he had 
left me a lovely child, I had grown to 
a lovely woman ! " 

The words were spoken not vainly but 



148 My Connaught Cousins, 

dreamily, as if the thoughts of the speaker 
were still buried in the past. 

There was silence between them for a 
time. Presently Conn spoke again, — 

" Your father was anxious for you two to 
marry, was he not ? " 

" Yes — very. It was mainly through 
him that we were betrothed as children, — 
and on the morning of the day when he 
went out to meet his death, he was talking 
of my marriage with Antony, and he told 
me then that the reason he was so fond of 
Antony was because — because of the great 
love he had once borne to Antony's mother. 
She was not your mother, was she ? " 

"No. I believe she died when Antony 
was born ! " 

" Ah, it was your mother who brought all 
the money to Kildare Castle then. Do you 
know that papa has left Antony the half 
of all he had ? — though, indeed, he need 
not have done so, since what is mine is 
his." 



My Connatight Cousins, 149 

*' You are not married to him yet !" said 
Conn softly. 

"No, not yet/' she answered; "but it's 
almost the same thing you know, I have 
known Antony so long. Why, I saw you 
for the first time the day before yesterday, 
and yet, because you are Antony's brother, 
I feel that you are mine ! " 

He laughed lightly. 

" That makes it very nice to be 
Antony's brother," he said. " But," he 
added to himself, " I would rather be 
Antony ! " 

Nevertheless, he found it pleasant for 
the time being to be what he was, since 
it gave him the privilege of being near 
to her. 

" I wonder why he laughed so when 1 
said he was like Antony ? " thought Alma, 
when she was alone that night. " He ad- 
mitted afterwards that I was right, and yet 
he still looked amused. It must have been 
because I had forgotten whether he was fair 



150 My Co7inaMght Cousins. 

or dark. Of course he is dark — very dark. 
His hair is black, so are his eyes ; but in 
every other respect he must be very like 
Conn." 

All that night the wind blew violently, 
but in the morning the storm had ceased. 
The travellers started early, for now that 
they had got so far, they both seemed eager 
to reach their journey's end. 

As the car rolled on, taking them after 
every mile through wilder and more desolate 
scenes, the girl grew strangely silent. Wild 
thoughts chased each other through her 
brain — thoughts of how she was to meet 
this man with whom she felt so familiar, 
and yet so strange. She knew him, and 
yet she did not know him ; the picture of 
him which she had loved all these years 
was still vividly before her. But now she 
was near her journey's end, she felt that the 
reality would be strange to her indeed. She 
was at length awakened from her dream by 
her companion singing aloud, — 



My Co7tnaughi Cousins. 1 5 i 

• ♦' ' To the Ciirrach of Kildare 

The boys they will repair, 
And Lord Edward will be there, 
Says the Shaa Van Yocht ! ' 

" Look, Alma ! " continued Conn, suddenly 
stopj)ing his song, '' the boys have seen us, 
and no mistake, and carried the news to the 
castle. Can't you see Kildare ? There it 
is, look — close by. Are you cold ? We 
shall soon be safely housed now. What a 
throno; of rao^amuffins round the door ! I 
must throw them a handful of coppers, I 
suppose. By Jove ! they mean to honour 
you. Look at the bonfire on the castle 
clifi' ! There's our old family standard 
waving from the battlements ! There's 
Father Shamus, God bless him ! and — by 
Jupiter ! there's Antony." 

" Antony ! — where ? " she asked, rising 
excitedly to her feet. But Conn put his 
arms around her and drew her down again. 

" Don't get excited," he whispered, "and 
don't look— yet ! " 



1 5 2 My Connaught Cousins, 

Five minutes afterwards the car stopped, 
and Conn lifted her down. 

By this time her excitement was tre- 
mendous. She stood pale and trembling, 
conscious only of the wild, ragged crowd 
which surrounded her. 

" Welcome to Kildare," whispered Conn, 
adding quickly, '' see, here is Antony to 
welcome you too." 

Then, and not till then, the girl became 
aware that a figure was approaching her 
with eager, outstretched arms. She sud- 
denly grew cold and sick. 

*' Is this Antony ? " she gasped uncon- 
sciously, drawing close to her companion's 
side. 

''Yes, Alma, I am. Antony," answered 
the man. As he spoke he looked at her ; 
his cheek grew white as death ; he made 
no further attempt to approach her, but 
staggered back like a drunken man. 



My Connaught Cousins. 153 



III. 



There is silence in and around Kildare — 
the silence of complete repose. The ragged 
crowd dispersed several hours ago, and now 
the shivering creatures are all shut up, 
like beavers, in their little mud huts ; the 
car wdiich took home the priest has re- 
turned, and at length all the inmates of 
the castle are at rest. 

All ? — no, there is one at least beneath 
the castle roof that night to whose wearied 
brain rest will not come ; indeed, it seems 
to Alma that her mind will never be at 
peace again. 

After the first shpck produced by the 
sight of her lover was over, she had con- 
quered herself sufficiently to enter the 
castLs with a smile upon her lips and in 
her eyes ; she had composedly given her 
cheek for the old man's caress ; she had 
answered his tender inquiries about her 



i 54 My Connaitght Cousins. 

father, her journey, herself; and she had 
laughed merrily, though somewhat hysteri- 
cally, at the funny stories told by the 
priest ; but the moment she found her- 
self alone she sat down in a strange be- 
wildered way, and tried to think. 

But she could not think. She felt like 
one weary unto death. Her head was 
aching ; her heart was beating ; her hands 
were cold as ice. The deep silence of the 
house oppressed her ; she threw open her 
window, and leaning out upon the sill, 
listened to the wild sobbing of the sea. 

It was a calm still night, scarce a breath 
was stirring ; the heavens were black — dark, 
but ever and anon a star peeped out from 
amid the troubled masses of cloud which 
covered the sky ; the air was very cold — it 
touched her burning cheek and lips, and 
gently stirred the masses of rippling gold 
which lay upon her shoulders. How the 
sea was moaning after the wild trouble of 
the storm ! The waters surged in and ov^- 



My Con7iaitght Cousins. 155 

of the caverns, and the white foam was 
beaten about the cliffs. 

And so Alma had seen her lover ; at 
last she had come face to face with the 
man whose image had filled her soul for 
so many years ; and what then ? She 
recalled his letters, one by one, and each 
one seemed to be a dagger piercing her 
heart. She thought of the love, the wild, 
consuming passion of which those letters 
spoke, and the memory made her heart 
sick. A vision of her lover, deformed and 
sinister as she had seen him that night, 
flashed across her brain, and she covered her 
eyes, as if to shut out the sight, and moaned. 

She rose from the window, and turned 
away ; she would think no more. Her 
hands were burning feverishly now, her 
cheeks and lips were like fire. Leaving 
the w^indow open, for the air of the room 
seemed stifling, she threw herself, dressed 
as she was, upon the bed, and closed her 
eyes. At last she slej)t. Slept and dreamed, 



156 Afy Connattght Cousins. 

— for in her sleej) she seemed to be flying 
wildly through desolate wastes, and as she 
went she heard footsteps pursuing her, and 
turning, she saw that face — pale as when 
she last had seen it — wear}^, haggard, and 
wild. The great black eyes were burning 
upon hers, the arms were extended, while 
the livid lips murmured " My Alma ! " At 
the sight she screamed and fled the faster, 
but the figure came swiftly on. Suddenly 
she saw that huge caverns were opening 
all around her, — she heard wild cataracts 
moaning, and felt the icy touch of the 
wind. Again she glanced backward, when 
she saw that the dark figure was still pur- 
suing her, the white face coming nearer 
and nearer to hers : the arms were ex- 
tended now, and about to clasp her, and she 
shrieked aloud and woke. Awoke to feel 
the bitter wind blowing upon her, to hear 
the wild sobbing of the sea without. 

She arose, and looked wildly around her. 

She had been sleeping for hours. The 



My Connatcght Cottsins. 157 

ashes of the fire hiy dead and cold upon 
the hearth, and now the room was flooded 
with the cold, wdiite, light of day. Her 
head was aching worse than ever ; she felt 
feverish and unrefreshed, but she would 
not sleep again ; the memory of her dream 
made her tremble, as if she were afraid. 
She closed her window, and at once pro- 
ceeded mechanically enough, and with little 
thought of her appearance, to make her 
toilet for the day. When this was done, 
she opened her door and listened. No one 
was astir. She put on her hat and jacket, 
then softly descended the stairs, and left 
the house. 

A dreary landscape surrounded Kildare 
Castle, and before it was the sw^eep of the 
open sea. The old standard, a strip of 
green decorated with a harp of gold, hung 
like a limp rag above the battlements, and 
the cold, bare w^alls looked very chilly, 
set as they w^ere in a dark background of 
bogland and mist. For miles around 



158 My Connaught Cousins. 

stretched black, boggy wastes, desolate as 
the wastes of her dream, relieved only by 
mouldering greystone walls and wretched 
hovels of mud and straw. Far away, like 
a white face staring at her from the bog, 
she saw a little chapel, and near to it, 
crouching beneath its wing, the tumble- 
down residence of Father Shamus. Al- 
though it was still early, wretched figures, 
male and female, clad in picturesque rags, 
and carrying creels upon their backs, were 
trudging hither and thither across the bog, 
and one or two curraghs were sailing, like 
black specks, upon the sea. All was placid, 
cold and grey. The waters of the sea were 
peaceful, save where the great black caverns 
sucked them in, then cast them back a mass 
of seething foam ; but far away, where the 
bogland rose to hills, the mist fell, veiling 
the topmost peaks, and darkening into a 
threatening line along the horizon. 

Taking mechanically a path which led 
along the cliffs, Alma walked slowly on. 



Afy Connattght Cozcsins. 159 

She was still too dazed to think, but her 
large, lustrous eyes dreamily swept the 
scene around her. She looked at the white 
gulls which came hovering in the air above 
her, at the black cormorants which darkened 
the rocks below, and she listened dreamily 
to the washing of the waves, and opened 
her lips to drink in the keen fresh air, but 
all the while her soul was far away. Pre- 
sently she paused and looked back. 

There, on the summit of the hill, stood 
Kildare Castle, its chimneys now sending 
forth thin lines of blue smoke, the folds 
of its tattered standard shaken out by the 
rising breeze, and waving faintly. Then 
she sat down on a boulder which lay close 
to the edge of the high cliff, and turned 
her face twards the sea. 

How long she remained thus she did 
not know. Her trance at length was 
broken by the sound of a human voice. 

" So I have found you at last," it said. 
" Do you know I have been searching about 



i6o My Connaught Cousins, 

for the last -half hour, and when I could 
not find you, I began to think that you 
had run away ? " 

IV. 

Alma did not require to raise her eyes 
to recognise the speaker ; she knew that 
the rich, full-toned voice belonged to Conn. 

Yes, there lie stood, looking handsomer 
than ever that morning, with the flush of 
health on his brown cheek, the light of 
laughter in his bright blue eyes. How 
tall and fair, and powerful he was ; and 
this morning he seemed to hold himself 
erect and throw up his head with a 
prouder air than usual ; and when, in his 
merry courteous way, he raised his right 
hand and swept oft' his hat, the sunlight, 
struggling faintly througb the dewy mist, 
just touched with gold his clustering curls 
of hair, while the breeze swept caressingly 
across bis bold white brow ! 



My Connaught Cousms. i6i 

As Alma, raising her eyes, belield him, 
she felt her pale f\ice flush, then with a 
quick, almost petulant movement, she 
turned her head away, and took no notice 
whatever of his extended hand. 

" Why, what is the matter ? " asked 
Conn, taking a seat on the cliff before 
her, and thrusting his rejected liand into 
the pocket of his coat ; and then seeing 
that her lips were quivering, her eyes fill- 
ing with tears, he added quickly, — *' Alma, 
what have I done to pain you ? " 

" It is not what you have done, but 
what you have not done ! " returned the 
girl. "Do you think it was fair or kind 
or generous to bring me here, and never 
say a word? I did not expect you to be 
generous to me ; but he is your brother, 
you might have spared him ! " 

All the brightness faded from Conn's 
face, he took the girl's hand, and bent 
earnestly over her. 

'* Alma," he said, " if you knew all you 

VOL. I. L 



1 62 My Connaught Cousins. 

would not speak to me like that, and if — if 
you were not what you are I should walk 
away back to Kildare and say nothing ; per- 
haps it might be the wisest plan, but I can't 
do it — I could'nt bear to be misjudged by 
you. You say I should have spoken ; if I 
had, what then ? You would never have 
come to Kildare, Antony would have said I 
had separated you, and God only knows there 
might have been bloodshed between us ! " 

He felt the little hand tremble in his 
grasp, the cheeks went pale as death, but 
Alma did not auswer. 

" A week ago," continued Conn quietly, 
*' it was a matter of perfect indifference to 
me whom Antony married, but when I saw 
you I was amazed, for I thought you hneio ; 
afterwards, when I found you did not, I 
could not speak, for I thought she shall see 
for herself, and then she will be satisfied to 
end the farce and return ! " 

The girl's face went paler still ; she rose 
excitedly to her feet. 



My Connaught Cousins. i6 



J 



"You think a life-loug tie can be 
so easily broken ? You think the love 
which has filled our hearts for years 
can be cast aside like an old gown, and 
forgotten ? " 

" Pardon me," said Conn quietly. " I 
never said that Antony would change ; he 
has no cause, he has got the best of the 
bargain ! " 

" Then you confine the heartlessness to 
line. You think that because Antony is — 
well, what he is, I should be justified in 
saying ' My dream is over ; our compact is 
at an end. Good bye ! ' " 

" Yes," said Conn boldly, " I think you 
would be justified ! " 

Alma did not reply this time, for the 
memory of last night came back upon her 
and turned her heart sick. Were not these 
the vdry thoughts which had come unbidden 
to her brain ? Had she not said to herself 
over and over again : "If the shock has 
killed my love it is no wonder. I have not 



164 ^^^ Connaught Cousins. 

met my lover, the handsome, brave man 
whom I have dreamed of all these years, 
but a monster who has taken his name, and 
whom I cannot love, and since this is so, 
why let the blame rest with him who has 
allowed me to indulge in a dream, which he 
knew must sooner or later be so cruelly 
dispelled." All she did was to turn away 
her face and murmur faintly, — 

" He cannot help being what he is." 

"No," said Conn, "he can't help it, sure 
enouo^h, but he should have been man 
enough to tell you years ago ! " 

Again the echo of her thought. Alma felt 
her heart pulsating madly, but she turned 
now and looked her companion in the 
face. 

" Perhaps we had better not talk any 
more about Antony," she said ; and Conn, 
shrugging his shoulders, cordially endorsed 
her words. 

"It can't be a pleasant subject to either 
of us," he said ; " but promise me this, Alma, 



My Connaught Cousins. 165 

that whatever happens between you two, 
ive shall ever remain friends ! " 

" Yes, I promise," returned Alma quietly. 
Then she took his proffered arm, and walked 
with him alons; the cliffs towards Kildare 
Castle. 

The day had brightened hour by hour, 
and now the sun had drawn the mist from 
the hills, and w^as shining brightly on the 
bog;s and on the sea. 

The seagulls screamed still above them, 
and the great cormorants flapped their black 
wings on the rocks below. 

The waters were troubled, for the yawn- 
ing caverns sucked them up still, and spat 
out the hissing foam, which spread like a 
white shroud upon the sea. Walking thus, 
supported by a strong arm, conscious of a 
protecting presence near, and surrounded 
by the glory and mystery of such a scene. 
Alma's troubled soul grew more at peace. 

Presently she raised her eyes to his face, 
and as she did so her pale cheek flushed. 



i66 Hfy ConnatigJit Cousins. 

That quick movement of the head had told 
her that they were now beneath the shadow 
of Kiklare Castle, and as she raised her eyes 
they met a pair of flashing black orbs which 
were gazing from the window above. What 
had happened to the morning ? had a blight 
passed over the land ? Alma shuddered as 
she entered the castle door. 

" Alma, my little darling ! is it really 
you ? Last night I dreamed that you were 
taken from me, and when I Avoke this morn- 
ino; I thouo^ht the dream must auo;ar ill ; 
but now I hold your hand and see your face, 
I laugh at such shadowy warnings, and 
frel they are quite untrue ! " 

The betrothed lovers were alone at last — 
alone in the great dining - hall of Kildare 
Castle, with the faint misty light stealing in 
upon them through the open window, and 
silence all around. He stood before her hold- 
ing her hands, clasping them with a feverish, 
passionate clasp, although they lay like lead. 



Afy Connaught Cousins. 167 

" My little darling ! " he said, pressing 
lier hand still tighter, " when you shrank 
away from me last night, I thought you had 
dealt my death-blow ; see what a coward 
love makes of a man ! and for the first time 
I felt sorry that you did not know." 

'* Why did you not tell me ? " asked the 
girl faintly, and Antony replied, — 

" Because I was afraid ! — yes, afraid ! for 
I tell you love has made a coward of me. 
Listen, Alma ! When first I found that I 
was maimed and crippled, I thought, ' I will 
say nothing, — if I do, her love may die, and 
then death to me too ! This cannot last for 
ever. In two or three years I shall be right 
again, and then little Alma will bless me 
for sparing her the knowledge of so much 
pam ! 

He paused as if expecting a reply, but 
none came. Alma's cheeks grew paler in 
the faint grey light which suffused her face 
and form ; her hands were cold and tremu- 
lous ; her heart grew fainter in her breast. 



1 68 My Coiinatight Cousins. 

She stood silent for a time, conscious of his 
feverish clasp, his burning, eager look ; then 
with an effort she raised her eyes, and forced 
her cold lips to speak. 

" But afterwards," she said, " when you 
found that you were changed for life, why 
did you not tell me ? " 

" Why ? Well, because 1 was a fool then 
as well as a coward. I should have told 
you all I know, but you had grown dearer 
to me than my life, and I could not risk the 
chance of losing you. Oh, my darling, if it 
hadn't been for you, God only knows what 
I might have become ! Mine has been a 
hard life. Alma. Sometimes I have sat 
down and thought, ' Where is the use of all 
this struggle, and turmoil, and pain ? Why 
not end it ? ' and then the thought of you 
came back upon me, and I knew there was 
one to sweeten life's bitter cup even for 
mer 

He paused again, and this time the silence 
was broken by Alma's sobs. The room was 



My Connaught Cozishis. 169 

shrouded in darkness now, save where the 
fiiint grey light fell about the window and 
the door. Alma could not see her lover, 
but the gentle pathos of his words, the pas- 
sionate ring of his voice, had touched a 
tender chord and stirred up the memory 
of years. 

" You should have trusted me ! " she 
sobbed, bowing her head upon his arm. 
'' How could you value my love, when you 
thought it would die so soon ? " 

As her face touched his arm, his whole 
body trembled like a leaf. He gently put 
his arm around her. 

" Alma," he said, " I never thought your 
love would die, — if I had, the farce would 
have been ended years ago ! " 

*' And yet you did not trust me ? " 

" And yet I did not trust you ! I could 
not. My hand would not write the words 
— my lips would not utter them. But that 
is past and gone. You have seen, my dar- 
ling, you know, and still I hold you here ! " 



I/O Aly Connanght Cotisins. 

She was still sobbing ; her face was buried 
on his shoulder, his arm clasped around her. 

" Since that day when I looked in the 
mirror, and saw and knew the truth, I have 
never had the heart to say a prayer. All 
the kindliness of my nature was turned to 
gall, Alma, and I cursed instead of prayed ! 
But to-night I shall say a prayer. God is 
good ! I have not suffered in vain. My 
trials were all as nought compared with the 
blessino[ which He has o;iven me now ! " 

AVith an effort Alma conquered her sobs, 
and, raising her eyes, looked into his. She 
stretched out her arms toAvards him ; her 
lips were open to speak the answer to his 
prayer, when suddenly the moon burst forth 
in all her splendour, and her light pouring 
in a flood through the window^ lit up a 
figure which stood outside. It was Conn, 
bareheaded, dressed negligently in a suit of 
grey tweed, and smoking a cigar. As he 
strolled past the window, he was carelessly 
singing a song, — 



Ilfy Connaught Cousins. i 7 1 

" I'll leave my people, both friend and foe, 
From all the girls in the world I'll go ; 
But from you, sweetheart, oh, never, oh no, 
Till I'll lie in the coffin stretched cold and low. 
Then, Ora, come with me, come with me, come 

with me, 
Ora, come with me, hrown girl sweet ; 
And oh I would go through snow and sleet, 
If you would come with me, brown girl sweet ! " 

As the figure passed into the darkness 
and the voice faded away, Alma's arms fell 
powerless by her side, and the words upon 
her lips remained unspoken. 

Durinir these two interviews, both of the 
brothers had omitted to mention one im- 
portant fact, — Conn had remained silent 
from a certain sense of shame, Antony 
because he wished to spare his brother. 
Therefore Alma was kept in ignorance of 
the fact that it was no other indeed than 
Conn who had dealt the blow which had 
deformed his brother for life. 



72 My Connaught Cousins. 



A period of gloomy weather succeeded 
Alma's arrival at Kildare. First the rain 
fell, then white mists covered the hill- 
tops, and a damp cold wind blew in from 
the troubled sea. 

It was very dreary in the day-time, but 
drearier still at night. Often as Alma lay 
in her bed she was awakened from trouble- 
some dreams by the breaking of the waves 
below, the low moaning of the wind, or the 
whining; of the doo-s chained in the court- 
yard. Conn was away from home. He had 
left the castle on a fishing expedition among 
the hills, and w^as not expected to return for 
several days ; but iVntony was there, and 
day after day he was ever at her side, either 
on the hills or the sea. 

Despite his care, each day found the girl's 
cheek a shade paler. Her mind was restless 
and ill at ease. It seemed to her that the 



3fy Connatight Cousins. i ']'^ 

sunlight had never penetrated into those 
gloomy regions, either to brighten the land- 
scape or the dismal lives of those who dwelt 
upon the land. A dreary people they seemed 
to her, with hearts of lead and heavy mourn- 
ful eyes, content to live, and toil, and die, 
so long as the roof above them remained 
the same, and they were sure of having the 
waves break upon the sands hard by their 
graves. 

The strange, dark, gloomy eyes of these 
people — savages she called them — seemed to 
haunt her out of hope, their low monotonous 
voices to ring ominously in her ears. She 
was beo;innino^ to get fanciful too, and to 
imagine that the dreary old castle was 
haunted. Often, as she lay awake at night, 
she fancied she heard the rushing of feet 
alono; the corridors ; strange cold winds 
seemed to be wafted about her room, bring- 
ing her the echo of dreary moans. 

In these days, if she had had any one at 
hand in whom she could have confided, she 



1 74 My Connaught Cousins. 

might have cast aside these dreary fancies, 
and with an effort have shaken off the fear 
which was creeping so coldly about her heart 
as if to still its beating. 

But she had no one. 

She shrank from the thouo^ht of confidingr 
in Bridget, the housekeeper of Kildare 
Castle ; Mr Eoss, the master, would, she 
felt sure, look at her in such a way as to 
quench her confidence at the very outset ; 
and of Antony she had almost grown afraid. 
Why, she did not know. She only felt that 
she was amongst a race of people who 
seemed to be of a different species to others 
she had known, and that the strangest and 
most unsympathetic of all was the man 
whom she had come there to marry. 

" Where was Conn ? " she asked herself 
again and again. " Why had he gone and 
left her there ? He was the only human 
being who seemed earthly, and yet he had 
departed and left her there alone. Was 
that short happy time w^hich she had spent 



My Conn aught C 02 1 sins. 175 

with liim only a Jrcam ? Was she clcstiucd 
never to see liis face again ? " 

Once, slie had ventured to mention his 
name to Antony, but as she had done so, a 
look so sinister had darkened his face, that 
she had grown more and more afraid. And 
so the gulf which was separating them 
seemed to widen. After that she had not 
dared to mention Conn's name, but she 
thouo'ht of him more and more, and won- 
dered at the hatred which his brother 
seemed to bear him. 

But if she did not confide in her lover, 
she could not altogether conceal her sorrow 
from him. He w^atched the roses gradually 
fade from her cheeks, the brightness from 
her eyes ; as her reserve increased his face 
srew darker. KX last he took the initiative, 
and tried to o:ain her confidence himself. 

It was one evening when they were 
walking together towards Kildare. A couple 
of hours before they had left the castle in 
bright sunshine, but now a thick cold mist 



I 76 My Ccnnaiight Cousins. 

enveloped them like a shroud. Alma could 
feel it clinging to her clothes, and hair, and 
she shivered violently. 

" Alma," said her lover bending towards 
her, and taking her cold hands in his, " Alma, 
my darling, when are we to marry '\ " 

The girl started, her heart seemed sud- 
denly to stand still, she uttered a faint cry, 
and paused trembling. 

" What is the matter ? " he cried 
anxiously, and at this the girl tried to 
force a smile, but only shivered, and cast a 
weary look about her. 

" I must have been dreaming," she said, 
" when your voice awoke me ! See how I 
tremble ; had we not better hasten home, 
for I am so cold ? " 

The rain indeed was gathering thicker 
and thicker around them, the silence was 
broken only by the low moaning of the sea. 
They walked on ; Alma could see the black 
tower of the castle loomino; throus^h the 
mist when her lover spoke again. 



]\ly Comiatcght Cousins. I'jy 

*' Well, Alma," he said, more gravely 
this time, " you have not answered my 
question. When will you let me call you 
wife ? " 

She was not looking at him, she seldom 
did that now ; but he w^as watching her, and 
he saw that a look of positive pain passed 
across her face ; in a moment it was gone. 

" Let me think," she murmured ; "I will 
tell you another time — to-morrow, it's so 
very sudden 1 " 

" Sudden! — when we have waited all these 
years ! Sudden ! when you came to Kildare 
to marry me ! " 

" Ah, yes, it is foolish of me," she said. 
" Papa would not have wished for any delay. 
Let it be whenever you please, Antony ! 
You have waited long enough, God knows ! " 

As she uttered the words, the two drew 
near to the door of Kildare Castle ; the great 
black turrets of the place seemed creeping 
towards her as if eager to fold her in their 
arms. Alma ran up to her room, and, 
VOL. I. M 



I yS My ComtattgJit Cousins. 

having gained its solitude, stood with both 
her hands pressing her aching head. She 
could still hear the sea moaning, and pre- 
sently she saw that her window was open, 
the mist driving in ; she closed it, then she 
pressed her forehead against the cold glass, 
and stood with closed eyes. Presently the 
sound of a gong echoed through the house 
and roused her. She put off her damp 
clothes, mechanically washed her face and 
hands, and smoothed her hair, and descended 
the stairs. 

Her head was still full of strange sounds, 
and she was not able to see clearly. All 
the lights seemed dim, and everything was 
unreal. She was aware of being in the 
dining-room, with her dinner before her, of 
two male figures being near her, but she was 
only half-conscious of what she was doing. 

Suddenly a burst of hearty laughter rang 
through the house, and she started as if 
from a dream. 

" Conn, my boy, you're just in time," 



A/)> Connaught Cousins. i jt^ 

said Mr Ross, as the dining-room door fi(;\v 
open, and Conn, looking handsomer than 
ever, stepped into the room. 

He smilingly nodded to his father and 
Antony, but walked towards Alma with out- 
stretched hand. She felt her face Hushing, 
her lips smiling, as their hands were clasped 
together. 

" Oh, I am so glad you have come," she 
said ; then, as she turned to resume her seat, 
she met the eyes of her lover, ^yhich had 
been fixed upon her gloomily, wdth an ex- 
pression of sinister suspicion. 

When she found herself alone that 
night, she did not seek her rest ; she sat 
down before the turf fire, and began to 
think. 

*' I was weak and foolish," she said, "just 
as I was that night when I told him, oh, 
my God ! that my love was unchanged. 
He believed in me then, he believes in me 
now. I am not fit to be tried like this ! He 



i8o My Cojinaught Cousins. 

cannot be my Antony. I have looked at 
him, and I cannot find a single trace, and 
yet he is going to be my husband ! " 



VI. 

From the moment of Conn's return, the 
life at Kildare Castle underwent a pleasant 
chang-e. It seemed to Alma at least that 
the young man's coming was like a burst 
of summer sunshine after a long spell of 
wintry fog and rain. 

All that night she slept well, and in the 
morning, when she drowsily opened her 
eyes, she heard his voice singing gay scraps 
of song, she saw the sunlight struggling for 
entrance at her window ; and then, when the 
sound of the voice died, she heard for the 
first time the musical murmur of the sea 
as it washed peacefully upon the shore. It 
sounded quite glad and happy, noio. 

She bestowed extra pains upon her toilet 
that day, and was pleased at the result. 



Jl/y Connatight Cousins. 1 8 1 

AVhen she entered the breakfast-room she 
found bunches of purple heather and wihl 
thyme phxced beside her plate, and she 
knew instinctiyely that Conn had been out 
on the cliff to gather flowers for her. 
When Conn, taking her hand in his, raised 
it to his lips, she smiled and blushed pret- 
tily beneath his gaze ; but her face became 
ghastly pale when Antony, advancing from 
the shadow, looked in her eyes and placed 
her chair. What was the meanino; of that 
look she asked herself again and again ; why 
was it that it made her so heart-sick, and 
turned her cheek so pale ; why was it that 
it tempted her to shrink from her lover, and 
draw her chair ever so little nearer to that 
of Conn ? Alma never forgot that look. 
Years afterwards she recalled it with the 
same secret horror as had filled her breast 
that^ Ijright summer morning. 

Meanwhile, Conn, unconscious of what 
was going on between his brother and the 
fair young creature to whom he was be- 



i82 My Connaught Cous 



ins. 



trotbed, j^lied his knife and fork in a 
manner which augured well for the healthi- 
ness of the mountain air. Now and again 
he paused to offer some polite brotherly 
attention to Alma, and to give her a look 
and a smile which made her blush. She 
was vexed she could not keep her cheeks 
cool, for she felt instinctively that Antony 
was still looking at her, noting in sullen 
silence every change which flitted over her 
face. 

The girl was beginning to find her old 
dread of Antony deepening into positive 
indignation, and on the whole she felt that 
the meal would have been a pleasanter one 
if he had found it convenient to remain 
that morning in his own room. However, 
at length the meal was finished. Conn 
pulled down his hat from a peg in the hall, 
whistled up his dogs, asked Alma if she 
would like to accompany him in a stroll 
on the beach, and, on her assenting, the 
two w^alked off together. 



My Connaitght Cousins. i8 



She had asked Antony if he would go 
with them, but her lips, not her heart had 
spoken, and he had refused. As he did so 
he saw^ that the brightness of her face, 
which for a moment had faded, returned. 

It was very pleasant to wander along the 
shore with Conn, and ere Alma had gone 
many yards she entirely forgot the exist- 
ence of the moody man who was shut up 
in the castle, following with jealous eyes 
the two figures as they passed side by side 
along the sand. She felt as if a shadow 
had been lifted from her soul, as if a sun- 
beam had suddenly shot from heaven bring- 
ing with it brightness to the sea, and peace 
and happiness to every living thing. 

From that day the girl's drooping spirits 
seemed to revive, and the morbid fancies 
which before had assailed her gradually 
passed away. She no longer quaked and 
trembled at every sound. She slept peace- 
fully during the night, a sleep which was 
unharassed by dreams, and during tlie dusk 



184 My Connattght Cousins. 

of the evening she was not afraid to pass 
along the broad corridors alone. She was 
learning to love the music of the waves, 
the sweet breath from the hills. She was 
beginning to feel that to be the mistress 
of Kildare Castle was not so dark a prospect 
after all. 

But what had come over Antony ? In 
her newly-found happiness Alma had for- 
gotten to note her lover, but now and then 
his existence was force<l upon her, and at 
such times it seemed that a shadow had 
crossed her sunshine. For amidst all this 
change Antony was changing too. Jealousy 
was gnawing at his heart, and converting 
the man into a devil. Alma did not notice it, 
but Conn did, and he shrank from the looks 
which sometimes crossed his brother's face. 

A family tragedy was jDending, that was 
certain. 

Conn determined to avoid it, even 
although the doing so nivolved the sacrifice 
of himself. For he knew now, that to 



il/y ConnaugJit Cousins. 185 

leave Alma would involve a tremendous 
sacrifice. The girl had wound her way 
int(^ his careless lieart, and made him love 
as he had thought himself incapable of 
loving^. At first he had admired her for 
the firmness with which she held to her 
bond, and he had crone awav to avoid 
temptation, and to uproot from his heart 
the slight tenderness with wdiich her beauty 
had already inspired him; Init when he 
returned and saw her so pale and sad, he 
had felt pity, and since then his pity had 
melted into a strange sympathy. The 
change had been so gradual, that for a time 
he himself did not notice it. But one day, 
as he was o-azino; into the hall mirror, he met 
Antony's eyes steadfastly regarding him, 
and that look awakened him to his danger. 

Conn remained in his room all that after- 
noon, and in the evening after dinner, when 
his father had dropped asleep in his chair, 
and Antony had left the room, he took 
Alma out on to the terrace to show her the 



1 86 My Conna2ight Cousins. 

new moon ; then he told her with ©utward 
composure, but inward trembling, that he 
was going away again. 

" Going away ? " said the girl faintly, 
her cheek turning very pale. 

" Yes," continued Conn, manfully re- 
pressing the inclination which was strong 
upon him, to kiss her pale cheek and enfold 
her trembling body in his arms. " I am 
going for a raid among the mountains 
again, and I start to-morrow morning, 
but I mean to get back before your wed- 
ding-day." 

Conn ceased, and Alma still said nothing. 
Her face was white as death, and her eyes 
were fixed upon the pale ray of moon- 
light which fell faintly upon the sea ; she 
still kept her trembling hand on Conn's 
arm, but her thoughts were travelling back 
over that dreary desert of days which she 
had spent in Kildare Castle while Conn 
was absent. 

She raised her face to his. 



My ConnaugJit Cousins. 187 

" Don't go," she said, " if you have any 
care, any pity for me ; don't go again, and 
leave me here alone. I couldn't bear it. I 
should go mad, or kill myself, — it wouldn't 
much matter which." 

Conn's hand trembled. Was it possible 
that Alma loved him ? If so, his was a 
sacrifice indeed. 

" Alma," he said, bending above her. 
"Antony remains here." 

The girl started and bit her lip ; she could 
not raise her eyes to his, for they were full 
of tears. 

" Since you are bent on going,' she said, 
" I suppose we had better say good-bye," 
and she held forth her hand. He took it 
in both of his, and drew her towards him 
again. 

" Alma," he said, '' you know, or you 
ought to know, that I would give my life to 
save you pain." 

" Then you will stay ? " she said 
quickly. 



1 88 J/j' ConnaiigJit Cousins. 

" Yes, if you wish it, I will stay a little." 
Then bending over her he asked softly, — 
" Was it so very dreary when I was 
away { 

The oirl shuddered and cluno; close to his 
arm. 

" Never mind what it was," she said 
forcing a laugh, " so long as it is not to be 
so again. If you had gone off again as you 
did before, I would never have forgiven 
you ! " 

Conn took her hand and pressed it 
softly. At that moment Mr Eoss's voice 
was heard calling, and the two stepped into 
the room. 

They were both astonished to see Antony 
sitting in an easy-chair close to the window. 
For a moment Conn turned rather faint, 
but when he looked again at his brother, he 
saw that he was fast asleej^. 

So at least he seemed. 



My Connmight Cousins. 189 



VII. 

So Conn remained, and somehow, since 
that short interview in the balcony, the 
subtle charm of his 23resence was increased 
tenfold. Outwardly they remained the 
same. They still took their solitary walks 
along the seashore, or among the desolate 
bogs ; but often during these lonely rambles 
Antony appeared, and almost forcibly de- 
manded that the girl should go with him, 
and Alma yielded, knowing as she did so, 
that after a brief walk with lier lover she 
could spend all the evening with Conn, 
For they still played and sang together, 
while Mr Koss took his siesta in his easy 
chair, and Antony from his shaded nook 
by the fire watched them gloomily. As 
each day passed, Antony's face grew darker 
and darker, and the keenly watched pair 
began to be afraid to exchange a word. 
And even when they found themselves 



I go ]\Iy Connatight Coicsins. 

alone they were tongue-tied — full of feel- 
inofs that would not bear utterance. 

Alma knew her w^eakness, and still she 
yielded. Every night, in the solitude of 
her chamber, she recalled the face of Conn. 
Every morning she came down dreading, 
yet half hoping, that Conn might be gone ; 
yet, wdien his handsome face appeared 
before her, the joyful look in her eyes 
was unmistakable. 

It was this soft look of sympathy bestowed 
upon him, at least once a day, that kept 
Conn at Kildare. He knew he was playing 
a dangerous game, but for the first time in 
his life he felt within him the sweet myste- 
rious thrills of love, and when his eyes 
spoke what his lips w^ould not betray, he 
read the answer in the eyes of his brother's 
expectant bride. 

But Antony loved Alma, and it was 
this thought which appalled Conn — this 
thought alone which kept him silent when- 
ever he found himself alone with the girl. 



Jl/y Comiaiight Cousins. 191 

By breathing a word to her he knew that 
he might crush the one hope which had 
kept his injured brother alive for years. 

One day the announcement was made 
that strangers w^ere coming to the castle. 
Two gentlemen from Dublin, who claimed 
Mr Eoss's hospitality through their acquaint- 
ance with his son. Alma did not know^ 
whether she was glad or sorry, but she 
affected gladness, and determined to vary 
the monotony of her existence by giving 
her small aid to Brido^et. 

So, for one day at least, the three principal 
actors in our story were parted. Antony 
went to meet his friends, Conn roamed oft" 
with gun and dogs, while Alma wandered 
from room to room, doing her best to make 
the dreary old castle look gay. 

She begged the help of Bridget with her 
toilet that night, and when it was complete 
she descended, looking prettier than she 
had done for months. She was late, and 
when she pushed open the drawing-room 



192 My ConnaiigJit Cousins. 

door she saw that most of the company 
was there. She could see Father Sham us 
and the curate at the far end of the room. 
Mr Koss and Antony were eagerly talking 
with two strange men. Her eyes w^andered 
over to the hearth and rested upon Conn, 
who looked like a young Adonis in his 
elee^ant suit of black. 

Alma paused in confusion, and gazed 
round appealingly at Conn, then Antony 
came forward with outstretched hand, and 
the next moment she felt her fing;ers enclosed 
in a cold firm grip, while he presented her 
to the strangers. 

Was it only fancy, or did she see them 
start, gaze from her to Antony, from her to 
Conn, and then glance significantly into each 
other's eyes ? No, it could not be fancy ; 
Alma seemed to guess their thoughts, for 
she flushed almost angrily. 

The dinner passed off well. Father 
Shamus w^as in his best mood, and the 
strangers talked pleasantly and well. An- 



My Connajtght Cousins. 193 

tony alone seemed silent, and secretly 
oppressed. Again and again he looked at 
Alma with a strange fierce light in his eyes, 
which made her sick with fear. It was this 
feeling of dread which kept her seated when 
the punch was brought in, and she knew 
she ought to be away. She had thought 
it all over, and she knew that if she went 
to the drawing-room Antony would surely 
follow her ; and, filled with that instinct of 
self-preservation, she dreaded to be alone 
with him that night. 

So she asked leave to stay, and it was 
readily granted ; and while the gentlemen 
smoked their cigars and drank their wine, 
and told their after-dinner stories. Alma 
smiled and listened well pleased, trying all 
the time to avoid the light which deepened 
in her lover's eyes. 

Presently the company adjourned to the 
drawing-room, and then it was Alma's turn 
VOL. 1. N 



194 ^y Connaug/it Co7isins. 

to amuse. She sang her prettiest songs to 
amuse the strangers, and played some quaint 
old Irish airs to please the priest. It was 
not till late in the evening, when both 
Father Shamus and the curate rose to go, 
that she wished them all good-night, and 
retired. 

Long after the clock had struck twelve 
that night, Antony and the two strangers 
were closeted in the room known as " Mr 
Antony's study." They had evidently been 
talking freely, but now neither of them 
spoke. Antony sat plunged in deep 
thought, with his eyes on the fire ; one of 
the strangers stood on the hearth, smoking 
a cigar ; the other was idly toying with 
the leaves of a book ; both were watching 
him. 

Presently one spoke. 

" Mr Ross, you must decide to-night." 



My Connaught Coicsifts. 195 

" So soon," said Antony, raising his eyes 
from the fire. 

" Not a moment is to be lost ! " 

'' If I refuse ? " 

" You will in all probability be shot ! " 

'' For the last two years I have worked 
for the cause zealously and well." 

" Precisely ; and you have gone too far 
to withdraw." 

Again there was silence, then Antony 
spoke. 

" When must I go to Dublin ? " 

" In a few days perhaps, at the latest in 
a week." 

" And when I get there ? " 

" You will be told your duty. The crisis 
has come when stern measures are needed. 
They will be taken." 

Again there was silence long and deep. 
Again Antony stared into the fire with 
mournful, haggard eyes. Again the two 



196 My Connaught Cousins. 

men watched him keenly. When he raised 
his head, he looked straight into their 
eyes. 

" I accept," he said. " I will go to 
Dublin on one condition." 

'* Name it." 

''You must give me a full week here, 
because — I wish to take with me my 
wife ! " 

Love and jealousy had overthrown 
patriotism. 

All that evening the question in An- 
tony's mind had not been What work shall 
I have to do ? but " What shall I do about 
Alma ? " After much weary trouble and 
thought, he had decided that question, 
yet the decision seemed to bring little re- 
lief to his already disturbed mind. 

During that night he walked wearily up 
and down his room. 



My Connaught Cousins. 197 

In the morning he came down looking 
pale and weary and old. Alma, glancing 
at him with gentle, wondering eyes, felt ex- 
treme pity mingle with her fear ; and when 
later in the day he asked to see her alone, 
she granted the request, if not with eager- 
ness, at least without reluctance. They 
went into the dining-room together. 

'' Alma," he said, taking her hands, and 
plunging at once into the very heart of his 
subject, ** this cannot go on ; — we must be 
married at once ! " 

The girl did not answer. She shivered 
through and through ; then raising her head, 
she gazed into his face with patient pleading 
eyes, like some poor dumb brute asking for 
mercy from its master. She knew that 
the hour had come when the very inmost 
thoughts of her aching heart must be 
spoken. She looked at him long and 
earnestly, hoping, yet partly dreading, that 



198 My Connaught Cousins. 

he would read her thoughts, and so spare 
her the pain of speaking. He saw, yet he 
would not understand. Finding that the 
girl remained silent, he spoke again. 

" Listen to me ! Some work I have to 
do calls me away. I must leave home in 
a week, perhaps sooner. I have settled to 
go, but when I go my wife must accom- 
pany me ! " 

This time the girl shrank fearfully from 
him, and dropped his hands. 

*' Oh, Antony!" she cried, "pity me, 
spare me. I — I cannot go." 

" Alma ! " 

" Oh, do not look at me like that. In- 
deed, I have tried ; yes, I have tried so 
hard, but I have tried in vain. Antony, for- 
give me ! God knows I would not willingly 
give you pain. I have been weak and 
foolish. I should have spoken before, but 
I did not, because — because I was afraid ! " 



My Connaught Cousins. 199 

She paused, but he said nothing. Even 
as she spoke he had turned away, and stood 
now with his elbows restinor on the mantel- 
piece, his eyes gazing fixedly at the 
window. 

His face was pale and convulsed with 
acute pain ; his lips were bloodless. 

Alma was gentle-hearted, and the sight 
of this silent suffering stirred her to the 
very soul. She rose and moved towards 
him ; she placed her hand upon his arm, 
and let it rest there, almost as if she loved 
him. 

"Antony, speak one word, say that 
you forgive me. Indeed, indeed, it is 
better thus. The money that my father 
left you shall be yours just the same as if 
we had married, and I will respect and care 
for you always as a friend, and as a 
hrotherr 

As she uttered the last word, Antony 



200 My Connaught Cousins. 

started fiercely, and Alma, perceiving for 
the first time what she had said, grew 
crimson. 

He turned, and looked at her intently, 
and the sight of his face made her shrink 
from him more than ever. He resolutely 
took her hand, and compelled her to look 
into his face. 

" Yes," he said slowly, '' you have spoken 
the truth at last ! Conn has stolen your 
love from me ; it is through liira you refuse 
to become my wife ! " He added more 
violently, — " Don't speak, don't answer ! 
Do you think I do not know ? Haven't 
I ears to hear, and eyes to see ? Well, 
it is only on a par with all the rest. 
Antony may work and slave with a will, 
but Conn with his cursed smiling face 
steps in and takes the reward. He sup- 
planted me in my father's heart ! He 
made me what I am. I toiled and 



My Comiazight Cousins. 201 

slaved for my people here ; they scarcely 
gave me their gratitude, while he was set 
up as an idol to be worshipped next to God. 
Yes, he has gathered the prizes, and left 
me only the blanks, and now he has stolen 
the only thing which gave me strength to 
live and endure." 

'■ Antony, will you not hear me ? " 
*' No, I will not hear you ; you have 
said your say ; now, listen to me. I tell 
you there comes a day in every man's life 
when his endurance ceases. My day has 
come ! — why should I strive and suffer ? 
Why should I bow my head in obedience 
to the will of an unjust God? Why 
should I pause and hesitate, when I know 
that, so long as Conn is living, the world 
will hold neither happiness nor peace for 
me ? " 

The girl stared at him in terror ; she 
opened her lips, but the words froze upon 



202 My Connaught Cousins. 

them ; her breath came in short, quick 
pants, but she made no other sound. 

" That night," continued Antony, " that 
cursed night ! when I heard that he, of all 
men on this earth, had gone to bring you 
here, my heart misgave me, and I seemed 
to feel what there was to come. I said to 
myself, ' If he leaves me Alma I will for- 
give him all, and try to forget ; but if he 
takes her from me, I shall hill him.' " 

The bloodless lips quivered convulsively. 
With a low, tremulous cry, she threw 
herself into his arms, and gasped, — 

" Antony, he is your brother." 

He roughly shook her from him ; she 
staggered back and almost fell. Without 
one look back, he hurriedly left the room. 

Dazed and heart-broken, almost as stupe- 
fied as the girl herself, he rushed from the 
house, and walked with wild strides across 
the mountain. He had not tried to ques- 



Aly Connaiight Cousins. 203 

tion Alma's decision. Giving his own love 
freely, he had been too proud to appear as 
a supplicant for love which could not be 
as freely returned. But his heart grew 
hard, his anger and jealousy intense. His 
one feeling now was a deep and unholy 
thirst for revenge ; a horrible craving to 
strike against the life of the man w^ho, he 
believed, had struck so often and so cruelly 
against his own. 

VIII. 

Half stunned and utterly powerless, 
Alma remained for a time cold and silent 
as a stone. She had staggered back when 
he cast her from him, and had fallen into 
a chair ; and now she sat with her eyes, 
dilated with terror, fixed upon the door 
through which he had passed. Was she 
going to faint ? She feared so. She made 



204 My Connatight Cousins. 

one strong effort, rose, opened the window, 
and put her head half out to inhale a 
breath of air. 

It was cold, very cold. The day was 
well-nigh spent ; for that dull, grey look 
on the cliffs and on the sea told of swiftly 
approaching night. There was a thin 
drizzle in the air; but though it fell and 
lay like hoar frost on the girl's golden 
hair, she hardly seemed to heed. She only 
knew that the air refreshed her, that the 
wild burning and throbbing was gradually 
passing away from her brain, and that she 
was able to think. 

" What must I do ?— what must I do ? " 
she cried wildly, pressing her hands against 
her aching head ; "he will kill him, and 
then — Oh, my God ! I think that I shall 
die." 

The house was full of people, but she 
could not tell her tale to any one. Mr 



My Connattght Cotisins. 205 

Eoss she knew would gaze at her with 
mildly reproachful eyes and hush the words 
upon her lips ; while if she told the servants 
they would raise the neighbourhood with 
wild cries, but do absolutely nothing. 
What was done she alone must do, confiding 
in no one. 

Conn was away ; — he was off for the day, 
he told her when he had come to wish her 
good-bye. He had described to her the 
route he meant to take, and the house 
where he would sleep that night — a neigh- 
bour's house — only a few miles away. 
Yes, she knew where to find him — she 
must go to him now — tell him of his 
brother's wrath, and beg of him never to 
return to his home. She felt that Conn 
would yield, for her sake, and if he would 
not, why she must go boldly back and sacri- 
fice herself to obtain peace, by becoming 
Antony's wife. 



2o6 My Connaught Cousins. 

She opened the door, passed swiftly- 
through the big, empty, desolate-looking 
hall, and crept stealthily up to her room. 
She listened : all was silent. She took a 
cloak to wrap around her head and shoul- 
ders, then she descended the stairs again, 
and ran from the house. 

What an evening ! cold, grey, desolate, 
and bleak, with no gleam of sunshine any- 
where. The hills were becoming dim in 
the shadows of oncoming night, the wind 
was moaning softly, and the sea was sighing 
as if for the drowned dead. As Alma sped 
onward, her eyes grew dim and her heart 
beat quicker and quicker. The places all 
around her — made familiar through her 
wanderings with Conn — were almost dear 
to her that night. For now she knew 
that he was in danger, now she knew that 
she must either bid him farewell, or see 
him lying dead at her feet. Her heart 



My Connaught Cousins. 207 

revealed its secret. She loved him ! Yes, 
she loved him ; though she had striven and 
fought against it, trying with all her 
woman's strength to follow the path of 
duty, she knew that she had failed. 

With trembling limbs, and wildly palpi- 
tating heart, she sped swiftly along the 
highway, gazing wildly about her for the 
sight of a well-known form. Presently, 
turning a corner of the road, she saw, close 
to her, two men fighting for life. 

One was down, the other stood above 
him raising a knife. With a wild shriek 
she sprang forward, and the knife fell upon 
her own breast. 



IX. 

When Alma opened her eyes, she found 
herself lying in bed in her own room at 
Kildare Castle. It was night apparently, 



2o8 My Connaught Cousins. 

for everything was so still. She lay for 
a time with her eyes fixed dreamily upon 
the ceiling, her ears listening attentively, 
but there came no sound. She turned her 
head on the pillow and looked around her. 
Yes, it was her own room ; but how 
strangely changed it seemed ! There was 
a dim light burning on the washstand, 
and a smouldering red fire in the grate, 
and near to the fire, seated in an arm- 
chair, was a woman. 

" Bridget," said Alma softly. 

The woman started, rose, and came to- 
wards the bed. It was Bridget, but how 
grave her face was ; and surely her gentle 
eyes filled with tears as she bent low and 
kissed the girl. 

" Praise be to the Lord," she murmured ; 
" will ye take a drink, mavourneen, and 
then try again to sleep % " 

The girl moved uneasily, and raised her 



Afy Connaught Cotisins. 209 

hand to push back the hair from her burn- 
ing brow. What did it all mean ? What 
had happened ? Her brain was so con- 
fused and weak, she could not think — the 
past seemed an utter blank. 

'' Bridget," she murmured, " what^s the 
matter — what has happened — am I ill ? " 

Then her extreme weakness overcame 
her; her lips quivered, her eyes filled, and 
she seemed about to faint. 

Bridget, seeing those signs of distress, 
grew more agitated. She clasped the girl's 
hand and stroked her cheek as if she had 
been soothing a crying child. 

*' Hush, mavourneen, don't cry, for the 
love of God," she murmured. " No, you're 
not well, machree ; but just drink this, 'twill 
soothe ye : go to sleep now, just to please 
Bridget, and in the morning I'll tell ye 
all." 

She took a seat beside the bed, and 
VOL. I. 



2IO My Connaught Cousins. 

continued to stroke the girl's hand gently; 
while Alma, completely overcome by her 
extreme weakness, cried quietly for a time, 
and then sank again into another sleep. 

Bridget sat and watched. 

As she saw the heavy eyes close, the 
beautiful lips part, and listened to the 
heavy measured breathing, her tears fell 
fast ; but her heart was full of thankful- 
ness to God. She felt that the danger 
was passed, and that, as Alma's strength 
returned, the heavy sorrow which had hung 
threateningly above Kildare Castle would 
surely pass away. 

Never would Bridget forget that night, 
more than a week before, when she had 
seen Conn enter his fathers house with 
Alma's bleeding and seemingly lifeless 
body in his arms. For a moment the 
castle was in a turmoil ; a mounted messen- 
ger had been despatched for the doctor ; 



My Comtatight Cousins, 2 1 1 

but one of the strang^ers from Dublin — 
possessing a little surgical knowledge — had 
dressed the wound with such rapidity as 
to save the girl's life. Then he had taken 
upon himself to telegraph to Dublin for 
a doctor, and the doctor had come, and 
after examining the wound carefully, he 
had said there was little chance for the 
girl to live. But he had stayed and tended 
her. And so he and many others had 
watched her slowly pass out of the shadow 
of death. 

And during all this anxious time, where 
was Antony ? [He lay a prisoner in Gul- 
ranny gaol. Stricken to the heart with 
remorse, he had straightway given himself 
up to justice. And now he, the young 
master of Kildare, was likely to be tried 
for 'murder. No wonder Bridget's eyes 
grew dim ; no wonder her kind heart 
swelled almost to bursting. 



212 My Connaught Cousins, 

The crisis was passed, but Alma's strength 
did not return very quickly. For days 
she lay with closed eyes, only giving signs 
of life by regular and gentle breathing. 
Powerless to rise or speak, she was, never- 
theless, partly conscious of what was going 
on around her. She was conscious of people 
moving in and out of the room ; of kind 
hands clasping hers, or gently bathing her 
feverish brow ; then she heard their voices 
by her bedside, and one day she was 
aware of being in the room alone with 
Conn. 

He knelt down by the bed and kissed 
her thin, white hand, and, as he kissed, she 
felt his tears upon it ; and, though she was 
so weak and ill, she felt as if she had sud- 
denly passed out of black darkness into the 
brightness of a summer's noon. 

When Alma recovered true consciousness, 
she opened her eyes in the full light of day. 



My Connatight Cousins. 213 

Her room was empty, but she could hear 
the sound of feet moving about below, and 
the occasional barking of the dogs chained 
in the courtyard. In the grate a peat fire 
still burnt brightly, and through the un- 
curtained window her eyes rented upon 
flakes of falling snow, and snow lay also 
in little flakes upon the window-frame ; and 
while she lay and gazed, she could hear the 
sea moaning and sighing as it used to do in 
the old days when she first came to Kildare. 

How long ago that seemed ! How much 
had happened since then ! Oh, if she could 
only find that it had all been a dream ! 

Suddenly she was conscious of some 
movement in the room, and, looking round, 
she saw that in a chair beside the bed sat 
Mr Koss, his grey head bowed low. 

She reached out her hand and touched 
his. 

" Mr Koss," she said, " dear Mr Koss, I 



2 14 ^y Connaught Cousins. 

remember everything now ; I liave awakened, 
and I remember ! How long have I been 
lying here ? — it must be very long, since 
winter has come. Tell me where is An- 
tony?" 

He had been gazing at her up to this ; 
but now, with a terrible look of pain upon 
his face, he turned away. 

'' Ah, do not speak ! you have told me," 
she cried ; " they have taken him ; but do 
not fear — they shall not harm him, because 
he has done no wrong. It was an accident 
— only an accident ; I threw myself in his 
way, and got wounded — that was all. You 
must send to them — I will write to them — 
they must set your son free ! " 

" You will do this ? — my child, can you 
forgive him ? " 

*' Forgive him ! Dear Mr Eoss, 'tis all of 
you who have to forgive me. You have 
had nothing but misery about you since I 



My Connatight Cousins. 215 

came to Kildare, but, when I have seen 
Antony — I — I will go away ! " ..." It 
has been very sad and bitter for us all," 
continued the girl ; "if it could have been 
dijQferent I should have been glad — and I 
tried so hard — so very hard — but it was all 
too much for me to bear. . . . Mr Boss, 
give me some paper that I may write — they 
MUST set Antony free ! " 

To obtain Antony's freedom w^as by no 
means so easy a matter as Alma had ima- 
gined. When the charge of manslaughter 
had been withdrawn, he was still retained 
on a charge of high treason ! 

For, during the time when Alma lay 
hovering between life and death, there had 
been a tumult in the village. First came 
the news of a murder which had been per- 
petrated in Dublin, and which was so hor- 
rible in its details as to freeze the blood of 



2i6 My Connaught Cousins, 

the most enthusiastic patriot ; next came 
the news that the two men arrested on 
suspicion had, only two days before the 
murder, been brought by Antony Eoss as 
guests to Kildare Castle ; further inquiries 
induced the suspicion that Antony, during 
his last visit to America, had been secretly 
employed in stirring up rebellion amongst 
the Irish-American people, and that, more- 
over, since his return, he had been present 
at several lawless Eibbon meetings in his 
own village. 

All these were only suspicions ; still, as 
they were grave ones, they had to be care- 
fully and duly weighed. At length, as no 
tangible evidence could be brought against 
him, he was informed that, though he would 
be kept under strict police surveillance, he 
was free. 

The news of the young master's freedom, 
getting somehow into the air, was wafted to 



Jlfy Connatight Cousins. 217 

Kildare Castle almost before the prisoner 
himself, dazed by the series of horrible 
events which had lately come to pass, 
realised that it was true. The news passing 
from month to month gladdened everybody, 
for Antony, despite his strange moods, was 
popular with the tenants. Bridget piled 
the fire with logs until the blaze flared half- 
way up the chimney, while Mr Koss busied 
himself to see that all was right for the 
home-coming of his unfortunate son. Still 
there was a tinge of sadness over all this 
joy, for that very morning Antony had 
written to say that if he returned to Kildare 
Castle he must be greeted with no rejoicing, 
as at the return of an honourable man ; 
the life that had been saved through Alma's 
mercy, rather than his goodness, should be 
fairly prized at last. 

Thus it came to pass that Antony made 
his homeward journey in strict privacy on 



2i8 My Connaught Cousins, 

a cold dark night, when the earth was 
thickly covered with a mantle of snow, and 
clouds gathered darkly above. He dismissed 
the car which brought him when he w^as 
still a mile from home, and turning his 
face seaward, continued his journey on foot 
across the dreary snow- covered waste. He 
had completed half his journey when the 
clouds became broken, and snow began to 
fall ; it clung coldly about him, saturating 
his clothes, while the wind, blowing half a 
hurricane at sea, smote him fiercely in the 
face. 

It was an inclement night, but he 
was glad of it, for he knew that in such 
weather the ways must be deserted and no 
human creatures abroad to witness his sorry 
return home. So, with one spark of com- 
fort in his heart, he buttoned his coat 
around him, and resolutely made his way 
through the storm. 



My Connaught Cousins. 219 

Presently he found himself close to his 
father's door. 

He paused. The sea was roaring heavily, 
the wind was shrieking, the thin flakes of 
snow were wildly whirled in the air ; even 
the massive turrets of Kildare Castle seemed 
to rock beneath the furious clutch of the 
wind. He walked forward. The dining- 
room window was uncurtained ; he looked 
in. 

The room was empty, save for one form, 
upon which his eyes remained fixed. A 
lighted lamp with a green shade stood on a 
centre table, and a turf fire filled the grate, 
and lying on a sofa, which was drawn up 
near to the fire, was Alma. Ah ! so changed. 
She had come to Kildare Castle a young, 
happy, contented girl ; only a few months 
had passed since then, and yet, as she lay 
there, with the lamplight and firelight upon 
her, Antony saw that she had been turned 



2 20 My Connaught Cousins. 

into a sorrowful woman. And yet she had 
had the heart to forgive — to intercede for 
the man who had struck so cruelly at her 
own. 

He moved away from the window. Then 
he advanced quietly and oj^ened the hall 
door. Mr Eoss was in the hall ; stifling a 
cry of joy upon his lips, he rushed forward 
to welcome his son ; but Antony, after one 
warm hand-shake, quietly put him aside. 

" I want to speak to tier',' he said ; and 
then he entered the room where she sat. 

The opening of the door aroused her ; she 
looked round and saw him. For a moment 
there was silence, then her two hands w^ere 
impulsively extended, as she cried, sobbing 
hysterically, — 

" Antony, welcome home ! " 

He came forward, but he did not say a 
word. He took her wdiite, wasted hand in 
his. There, upon her third finger, still 



My ConnatigJit Cotisins. 221 

glittered the ring wliicli lie had sent her, 
now nearly two years ago — the ring which 
bound her to him. For a moment his face 
was irradiated, then the glad light passed alto- 
gether from his eyes. Slowly, but deliber- 
ately, he drew off the ring and put it in his 
pocket, then he bent down to kiss her hand. 

This was his atonement, 

Some time passed, and the silence between 
them was even more eloquent than words. 
Then Alma spoke, — 

** Antony," she said, " will you let me do 
one thing to night, that I can think of with 
gladness till my dying day ? " 

" Yes, Alma." 

She rose and left the room ; almost before 
he had time to think she returned, but not 
alone. She walked up to the hearth where 
Antony was standing, took his hand, and 
placed it quietly in that of Conn. 

As the two men stood nervously grasping 



2 22 My Connaught Cousins. 

each other's hands, Alma sank down upon the 
couch, and they saw that she was crying. 

" Alma," they exclaimed simultaneously ; 
but she looked up smiling sadly through her 
tears, — 

"Do not mind me," she said; "I could 
not help crying, because I feel so glad I 
came to Kildare." 



X. 

A few days of peace and sad contentment, 
such as had not been known for many a 
day within the gloomy walls of Kildare 
Castle ; then came a parting — regarded with 
genuine sorrow on all sides. Antony w^as 
about to try his fortunes in America, while 
Alma had accepted the invitation of some 
friends to spend the winter in Dublin. This 
expatriation to America had, in fact, been 
made the condition of Antony's release 



My Connatight Cousins. 223 

from prison, and he had accepted because 
he had other, besides political, reasons for 
wishing to put the sea between himself 
and Kildare. It was arranged, therefore, 
that he and Bridget should accompany 
Alma to the end of her destination, while 
Antony continued alone on his way across 
the sea. 

It was a long dreary winter, and one 
destined to be made memorable by a series 
of horrible crimes. A long-suffering and 
terribly down-trodden people had arisen at 
last, determined at all hazards to assert 
their strength, and cast off the yoke which 
bound them. Ireland was in revolt — a 
species of civil war seemed about to ensue ; 
it was man against man, brother against 
brother, and the snow which covered the 
land was in places stained with blood. 
Weak-minded people grew terribly afraid, 
and instead of facing the inevitable, hastened 



2 24 -^y Connaught Cousins, 

to betake themselves to foreign lands. 
Amongst these latter were the people whose 
hospitality Alma had accepted when she 
thought it her duty to take farewell of 
Kildare. 

" We will go to London for a few months, 
my dear," said the lady of the house, patting 
Alma's hand, " and return when this dread- 
ful state of things is over." 

" Leave Ireland ! " said Alma, with a 
sinking at the heart ; " but there is no 
danger to us. If they strike, it is only at 
people who have struck so cruelly at them. 
Surely you are not afraid ? " 

" Afraid ! well, no — certainly not, dear ; 
but I do not like looking upon unpleasant 
things when it is just as easy to look at 
pleasant ones. "When I am in London these 
Irishmen may kill as many of each other as 
they choose, it wont matter to me ; but by 
spring I trust they will have got rather tired 



My Connaught Cousins. 225 

of the sport, and I shall be able to come 
comfortably home again." 

Alma did not answer. She went up to 
her room, sat down to her desk, and hurriedly 
penned the following note : — 

" My deae Mr Eoss, — My friends, alarmed 
at the state of things here, have decided to 
go to London. They have asked me to 
accompany them, but I feel I cannot leave 
Ireland. May I come back to Kildare ? 
Yours ever affectionately, 

" Alma Clifford." 

Two days later. Alma, sitting in the 
drawing-room at Stephen's Green, was 
wondering at having received no reply 
to her letter, when she was somewhat 
startled by the sudden appearance of Mr 
Ross. The old gentleman walked for- 
ward in his courtly way, and taking 
VOL. I. p 



2 26 My Conn aught Cousins. 

the hands of the astonished girl, said 
quietly, — 

" This is the answer to your letter, Alma. 
I have come to take you home." 

So Alma went back to Kildare Castle, and 
in two months after her arrival there she 
became the wife of Conn Eoss. They spent 
the early days of their honeymoon among 
the Kenmare lakes. After it was over, they 
returned to Kildare Castle, which was hence- 
forth to be their home. 

Thus ended Oona's tale. I read it every 
word, then I laid the precious manuscript 
aside, and went to sleep. 

The next morning when my toilet was 
completed, I put the story in my pocket, 
and leisurely descended the stairs. The 
breakfast gong had not sounded, so I passed 
out of the open front door, and was lucky 
enough to find Oona strolling about among 



My Connaught Cottsms, 227 

the trees. She looked half-expectant, half- 
nervous, as if she longed for, yet dreaded, 
my opinion on her work. 

" Capital ! " I cried at once, smoothing 
back her golden hair, and kissing her fore- 
head. "Where does it all come from, Oona ? " 

She laughed in a sort of nervous hysteri- 
cal way, and looked up at me with all the 
shy delight of a child. 

" You really like it. Jack ? " 

" Very much, indeed. And now for my 
criticism. If you hadn't told me beforehand 
that it was true, I should have said it was 
slightly improbable towards the end." 

I thought Oona looked rather crestfallen 
at this, but she said, — 

" Go on, Jack, tell me all you think. If 
I am ever going to publish anything, I must 
get used to criticism." 

" Well, I will tell you. It struck me as 
I finished the story, that a man such as you 



2 28 My Connaught Cotiszns. 

describe Antony Koss to have been, would 
never have come to forgive his brother ? " 

" You don't think so ? " 

" If you say he did, I suppose he must 
have done. This proves to you that nature 
is not art. To make this story artistic and 
give it verisimilitude — that is to say, to 
make it read like the real thing, you must 
write a new and a fictitious end." 

Oona laughed delightedly. 

"All your theories are upset, Jack," she said. 

"Are they ? " 

" Why, the end is fictitious ! Of 
course it is. The real story was shock- 
ing. Antony and Conn fought that day 
when they met on the road, and when 
Alma arrived at the spot to warn Conn not 
to come home, she saw his dead body on the 
ground, and Antony standing near with a 
knife in his hand. Old Mr Eoss died of a 
broken heart, and when Antony's trial 



Afy Convaught Cousins. 229 

came on, Alma was the principal witness 
against him." 

"Yes, go on." 

" Well, she had to speak of course, and the 
end of it was, that Antony was sentenced 
to death ; but for some reason or other, per- 
haps on account of the provocation he had 
received, the jury recommended him to 
mercy. Afterwards his sentence was com- 
muted to penal servitude for life. He died 
after being two years in New South 
Wales." 

"And Alma?" 

" She gave all her money away to chari- 
ties, and entered a convent as a working nun. 
She died some years afterwards. All Conn's 
money, the Kildare estate, and the castle 
passed to a very distant branch of the Eoss 
family, but ever since that time no one has 
ever lived there, and the castle consequently 
has been allowed to become a complete ruin. 



230 My Comtaught Cousins. 

They say it is haunted, that Alma and 
Conn walk there hand in hand ; and several 
of the caulighs aver that they have seen 
the dark figure of Antony sitting on the 
spot where he murdered his brother." 

" And why, may I ask, did you refuse to 
give us the real truth at the end of your 
story ? " 

" Why ? " said Oona, opening her blue 
eyes their widest. " Now, Jack, do you 
suppose, if I had done so, I should ever 
have got a person to read it ? " 

A joking reply was on the tip of my 
tongue, but remembering the manner in 
which my last attempt of that kind had 
been received, I very wisely refrained. 

" The public," continued Oona gravely, 
" dislike unhappy endings, therefore I have 
resolved to make all my stories end 
happily. . . . But, Jack, I wanted to ask 
you one thing. Would you — would you — " 



3Iy Connatight Cousins. 231 

" Would I — would I ? Yes, I daresay I 



would, darling ; but what is it 



?" 



^& 



*' Well, I mean, if I were to get ready a 
few more stories like this, would you send 
them to London for me and get them pub- 
lished somewhere ? " 

I reflected. I was not the kind of man 
to do things for nothing, and therefore I 
replied, — 

'* Yes, on one condition ? " 

" Ah, what is that ? " 

" Merely that for an hour or two every 
day you allow me to come to your study 
for the purposes of literary consultation ! " 

Oona readily consented, adding graciously, 
— " I will take up a box of papa's cigars, so 
that you may thoroughly enjoy your- 
self." 

END OF VOL. I. 



COLSTON AND SON, PRINTERS, EDTNBUE6H. 



UNIVERSITY OP ILUN0I9-URBANA 



II 



3 0112 049063610